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Houston nonprofit trying to save fresh food from grocery stores that would have been thrown away

Second Servings of Houston sends refrigerated vans across the city to collect food from stores and restaurants that would have been thrown away.

HOUSTON — It’s estimated that roughly 133 billion pounds of food is wasted every year or simply thrown away. 

A lot of that food comes from grocery stores, but one Houston nonprofit is trying to make a dent in saving Houston food and giving it to those in need.

“If we weren’t here picking up food, it would all get thrown away," Marketing Manager of Second Servings of Houston Kristen Torrez said.

Every morning — Monday through Friday — four refrigerated vans take off from the Second Servings warehouse in South Houston and make their way to stores across the city.

“Grocery stores, produce distributors, we go to retailers like Snap Kitchen," Torrez said.

One of the vans stopped at the Kroger off Buffalo Speedway. Next, Trader Joe's off Shepherd and then the Target across the street. Its final stop was Whole Foods in Midtown.

Along the way, it collected fresh food that filled the entire van, instead of a landfill.

“And we got all of those grocery items that they can no longer sell or if it was just surplus and they needed to rotate their shelves," Torrez said. “Normally, the food is going all the way up to the roof and you’re trying to stuff as much as you can. That’s how it is for all of our vans," Torrez said.

Second Servings of Houston is the pickup and the delivery. But on the other end of the operation is 100 nonprofits that distribute the food to those in need, for free.

“Over 16% of Houstonians are actually food insecure. And that was done pre-COVID so now it’s much worse," Torrez said.

One of Second Servings' drop-off locations is Heights Interfaith Ministries Food Pantry, which hands out the fresh food the very next day.

“The majority of our clients are the working poor families," Executive Director Terri Dougherty said. “They know that they’re going to get some combination of nutritious perishable foods.”

But with so much food still left to save, Seconds Servings says they hope to expand throughout the city – and beyond.

“We’re the only food rescue organization in Houston. We’re just barely scratching the surface just being within the loop, and Houston is a very big city," Torrez said. “The sky’s the limit really.”

Click here for information on Second Servings of Houston.

Janelle Bludau on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

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