When most people think of food waste, they think of throwing away the ends of a meal. For Amy Wang and Jasmine Wang, founders of local youth-led initiative ReHarvest, it never occurred to them that someday they would find a way to turn it into an opportunity to improve lives locally.
“Since the time we received the grant from Youth United and launched ReHarvest, we’ve made almost 400 deliveries in total, saving about $100 worth of perishable food each week. That’s something we are all extremely proud of,”
Partnering with United Way, Re-Harvest uses a one-to-one relationship between a non-profit and local food retailer, such as Old East Village Grocer. Smaller non-profits don’t have the resources or training to collect, store and distribute aging food safely. With pickups and deliveries facilitated by a volunteer driver to eliminate cost, ReHarvest is able to deliver healthy, nutritious food to local organizations that specialize in food security and education like South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre.
“It was harder than we thought it would be,” shares Jasmine. “It’s a good idea, and it fills a community need, but we never realized all the barriers we would face in putting things into motion.”
“Liability becomes an issue, even when you are trying to do the right thing,” explains Amy. “Organizations have to adhere to policies to protect consumers from aging food, ultimately forcing retailers to toss perfectly edible food at the end of each day.”
Ultimately it’s a cost thing.
That’s where Youth United comes into the picture. Youth United provides small grants to youth-initiated and led volunteer teams that have developed a creative action plan to address an issue facing the community related to one of United Way’s focus areas: All that kids can be, From poverty to possibility, and Healthy people, strong communities
With the support of United Way, teachers, principals, community leaders and their peers, Youth United applicants develop their own solutions and responses to the problems that they see in the community around them. Then they work with United Way to learn skills necessary to design, implement, monitor and evaluate meaningful and relevant community projects.
Amy and the team applied for the London Life Youth United grant and were thrilled when they were accepted. “It confirmed for us, in a way, that we had a great idea worth pursuing,” shares Amy. “It gave us the confidence and resources we needed to move our idea forward.”
Since the ReHarvest model relies on a one-to-one relationship between food retailer and a local non-profit, volunteers take on food pickup and delivery.
“We didn’t need a lot of money,” shares Amy. “The group’s only real cost, besides web hosting and domain fees for our website, is recruitment.”
Using the funding they received from Youth United, they were able to highlight the project, the current need for volunteer drivers, and the available deliveries.
People were excited and they wanted to get involved. Volunteers signed up for weekly time slots to pick-up and deliver the food as soon as it was ready, to organizations equipped to handle it.
“We couldn’t have made ReHarvest work without Youth United,” Amy says. “It would have taken a lot more time and effort, something we are all short on these days between school and work.”
Check out Youth United to learn more.