Grocery rescue program feeds the community


“We have about ten cases of food we’re giving away today, which otherwise would go in the compost,” said store manager Jon Berman. 

Instead, while customers at Berkeley Natural Grocery sift through and pick the food they want to buy, the stuff that doesn’t make the shelves gets packed up in the back — headed to another destination. 

“This is a piece of rhubarb, and it’s got some blemishes on it, you cut that away and its just as good as any product we have on our shelf,” said Berman. 

Berman is partnering with the Alameda County Community Food Bank and its Grocery Rescue Program. 

“We won’t give anything that we don’t trust completely, that we wouldn’t eat ourselves, “said Berman. 

Twice a week, Berkeley Natural Grocery boxes up perfectly edible and safe food that otherwise may be thrown out, then donates it to the Berkeley Food Pantry, which picks up the boxes and organizes the items at its location, where those less fortunate can pack a cart with food to feed their families. 

“Since we’ve participated in grocery rescue, we’ve never had a food shortage,” said Dharma Galang with the Berkeley Food Pantry. “Before that, we would actually run out of food at times, but since we started this program, we have never run out of food. So we’ve never had to turn anyone away with nothing.”

In the past six years, Berkeley Natural Grocery has donated about 140,000 pounds of food to the food bank, which has about 200 partners collecting and distributing food throughout the county.

Last year, the food bank gave out more than 4 million pounds of food directly from the Grocery Rescue Program. 

“One of the benefits of this program is that the grocers and the agencies are generally in the same neighborhood. So those grocery stores are actually helping the people in their own neighborhoods,” said Michael Altfest with ACCFB. 

“It’s the right thing to do. You know, and it just sort of aligns with our values, you as a store, what we’re trying to do,” said Berman. 

And, considering the food bank serves 1 in ever 5 Alameda County residents, whatever help grocers can provide is welcomed and appreciated.



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