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West Valley City Journal

Nonprofit organization gives perishable foods a new lease on life

May 02, 2022 09:28PM ● By Darrell Kirby

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

Each day in Utah, thousands of pounds of unused meat, dairy products, breads, fruits and vegetables approach the end of their life span with nowhere to go other than the garbage can.  

But a relatively new nonprofit program is expanding to West Valley City to give those perishable food items a little more life by diverting them to residents in need before the food goes bad and becomes waste.

Founder and president Dana Williamson started Waste Less Solutions in 2018 as a way to reduce and divert food waste in Utah “through food rescue, education and consulting.”

The program collects surplus food from caterers, cafeterias, restaurants, food distributors, farmers markets, and even people who grow produce in their backyards that otherwise would end up in the landfill because they often don’t have enough refrigeration or other space to keep all of it until it spoils.

Williamson launched the organization after a career in the corporate world to satisfy a growing appetite for addressing the problem of food waste ending up at the dump. Williamson said not only was it a matter of uneaten perishable food going to waste but its disposal in landfills contributes to the release of methane gasses into the environment. “My daughter was turning 16 at the time and I started realizing this isn’t the planet I thought I was leaving her when I brought her into this world,” she said.

Williamson learned of food rescue efforts mostly on the East and West coasts while working with local nonprofits that serve those experiencing homelessness. She recalls thinking that food rescue was something we needed here.

She received permission for Waste Less Solutions to use software already developed for those other organizations to create a mobile app. Anyone or any place that has extra perishable foods can use the app to arrange for a pickup by volunteers with Waste Less Solutions who take it to a facility where it is sorted for delivery to homeless shelters and food banks. 

Waste Less Solutions has been doing this in other parts of Salt Lake and Utah counties, but Williamson wants to do more in West Valley City. “We are using a kitchen there and we have a couple of board members that live there,” she said. “We want to let people know that this food rescue exists and (for them) to let us know about food donors and receiving agencies that want to sign up.”

Caterers are especially good contributors. “Sometimes we’ve picked up full turkey breasts from events,” Williamson said, adding that cooked but excess chicken breasts, brisket, and fajitas have also been donated from catered events. The food then makes its way to people in need thanks to local Boys & Girls clubs, the YWCA, Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, Catholic Community Services, and after-school programs.

Funding to help with expenses is raised through grants from local foundations, public funding, corporate donations and sponsorships, and individual contributions.

Does this compete with the Utah Food Bank? Williamson says the answer is “no.” Besides there being plenty of need to go around, the Food Bank stores and distributes mostly canned and packaged foods and very few perishable items.

“They’ve been partners of ours who have really been creative in finding ways to help those who are less fortunate,” said Utah Food Bank President and CEO Ginette Bott.

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