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Monday, December 10, 2012

"We Share Hope" fights hunger

By News staff

We talk about compost quite a bit at ecoRI News world headquarters. The benefits of composting food scrap are many: increased landfill lifespan, decreased methane emissions, reduced waste hauling costs, and improved quality of air, water and, of course, soil.

While composting food scrap is a great way to get rid of inedible food, many thousands of pounds of edible food is thrown away daily in Rhode Island. Tons of bruised produce and food that has passed its “use by” date, or has had its packaging damaged, are thrown into Dumpsters and trash compactors behind Rhode Island stores, supermarkets and restaurants every day. Even Rhode Island’s farmers have been known to throw away food — mostly for cosmetic issues — that they may deem unfit for sale.

According to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, more than 60,000 Rhode Islanders seek food assistance through the bank’s network every month. In fact, 41 percent of the food bank’s client households have such limited income that they must choose between paying for food or paying the rent; 43 percent of those households choose between paying for food and paying utilities; 77 percent of all households served by the bank’s network live below the federal poverty level — less than $22,000 a year for a family of four — and nearly one of every three persons served is a child younger than 18.

It’s a shame that most of the state's inedible food scrap winds up buried in the Central Landfill in Johnston, but with so many going hungry and seeking the assistance of food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens for sustenance, the amount of edible food that makes its way to that anaerobic afterlife is tragic.

One local nonprofit is trying to change that. We Share Hope was founded by Stephen Martin in 2010. The goal of the organization is to divert edible food from the Dumpster and put it onto the tables of hungry Rhode Islanders.

We Share Hope is a community of individuals who are committed to serving the common good. The organization’s primary mission is to provide food to agencies that feed the poor, distressed and the underprivileged. It provides donated food to about 90 public, private and faith-based organizations throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

“We Share Hope has one motive, to feed the hungry. They do it logically and in a way that not only feeds the hungry but empowers them to help themselves and others. WSH has brought together several agencies, non-profits and for-profits with the goal of helping the neediest of the needy in our community in ways they have never envisioned,” says Sheryl Marshall, program director for Access to Community Care and Effective Services and Support (ACCESS-RI).

If you are interested in becoming a member agency, call 401-437-0073. If you would like to become a volunteer, click here.