“Wednesday was a scare for me,” wrote the mother of four children. “I didn’t know what I was going to feed my kids. I made do with what was left in the pantry and called it a ‘clean out the pantry night.’ I never let the kids know how bad things are.”
Thursday morning, that mom called Nourish Now in Rockville, Maryland, for help. The 501c(3) nonprofit organization responded, providing a five-day supply of food for the family and giving the mother peace of mind.
Each month, Nourish Now provides a five-day supply of food to more than 500 families in Montgomery County, Maryland, by collecting donations of surplus fresh food from more than 100 restaurants, caterers and other food donors who directly support its mission. The food is then distributed directly to families in need as well as being sent to shelters, food banks and 50 other organizations that assist in feeding those who are food insecure.
Nourish Now was first conceived by Brett Meyers in 2010. Meyers was researching fresh food waste in the United States at the time when he learned about Panera Bread’s Day-End Dough-Nation giving program. That program involves collecting surplus food at the end of each night and giving it to local hunger relief and charitable organizations.
Meyers said he was stunned by the facts: More 50 million people throughout the United States suffer from food insecurity daily, while approximately 75 billion pounds of fresh food is wasted each year. “I felt that rescuing unused fresh food that would otherwise be sent to a landfill could play a major part in helping bring food security to those in need,” he said. In Montgomery County alone, there are more than 70,000 residents who are food insecure.
Meyers decided to create Nourish Now in May 2011. For the first six months, he recovered food using his own car, immediately donating it to families in need at lower-income apartment complexes. Today, Nourish Now operates a facility in Rockville, Maryland. In 2015, the nonprofit recovered 250,000 pounds of food and distributed it to individuals who are food insecure. Those numbers are expected to rise in 2016.
Temple Beth Ami, also located in Rockville, is one of Nourish Now’s key supporters. The temple’s Tikkun Olam Committee spearheads the involvement by encouraging members to host canned food drives at their workplaces, prepare meals and put together bags of groceries and provide donations. The committee also encourages members to tell their favorite restaurants, caterers and food providers about Nourish Now’s food recovery program and ask them to participate.
Mark Joffe, co-chair of Temple Beth Ami’s Tikkun Olam Committee, says the temple began to support the organization after receiving a letter from Meyers, who is a former Temple Beth Ami member. “In 2013, Brett wrote to the temple asking if we’d be willing to help out for Thanksgiving,” Joffe recalls. “Today, the support for Nourish Now has grown among members and is deeply felt and widespread.”
Shortly after that, the temple’s Critical Issues Committee decided to focus on food insecurity. And so began a partnership that continues to this day. In 2014, Temple Beth Ami held its first Oy Vey 5K fundraiser and a portion of the proceeds from the event was donated to Nourish Now.
The temple’s b’nai mitzvah students began supporting Nourish Now by collecting non-perishable foods for the organization and donating the leftover food from their simchas. Now students also approach local restaurants, asking them to donate to the organization, and they visit Nourish Now’s facility to assemble food packets for recipients.
In 2014, the goal was to serve a Thanksgiving meal to 400 families. This year that number grew to 1,000 families, and Temple Beth Ami members supported that effort.
“I think there are lots of good things people can do to help people in need,” says Joffe. “Some are more challenging than others. The thing about Nourish Now that amazes us is that Brett Meyers started this wonderful nonprofit that gets food that would otherwise be thrown away. He uses that food to feed those in need. It’s wonderful to be part of all that.”
Top photo: Nourish Now volunteers sort and package collected food to be distributed to families in need and organizations.