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Hunger relief organization plans Food Rescue Awareness Week

Restaurants donating part of sales to Table to Table

Table to Table volunteer Will Keen wheels carts of donated bread to the van at New Pioneer Coop in Coralville on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Table to Table collects food from area grocery stores and restaurants and delivers it to the Johnson County Crisis Center food pantry and other neighborhood centers where those in need of food can pick it up. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Table to Table volunteer Will Keen wheels carts of donated bread to the van at New Pioneer Coop in Coralville on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Table to Table collects food from area grocery stores and restaurants and delivers it to the Johnson County Crisis Center food pantry and other neighborhood centers where those in need of food can pick it up. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Restaurant-goers in Iowa City may see something extra when they receive their bill next week.

As part of Food Rescue Awareness Week, multiple restaurants around the area plan to insert fliers in with customers’ bills that explain what food rescue is and how they can join in the effort.

Table to Table, a food rescue organization based in Iowa City, planned this and other events to bring attention to the week.

Bob Andrlik, executive director of Table to Table, said the organization, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, was the first food rescue charity in the state. Food rescuers collect extra food from businesses such as grocery stores and deliver it to food pantries to prevent it from ending up in the landfill.

“We want to keep food as a resource,” Andrlik said. “It makes no sense whatsoever, when food is wholesome and edible, to bury it when people are in need.”

The organization is hoping the week will bring in more donations and volunteers.

In addition to the fliers with bills, 13 different restaurants around the area plan to donate part of their sales next week to Table to Table, which does not charge for its services. A complete list of the restaurants and times can be found on Table to Table’s Facebook page.

Table to Table also plans to sell tote bags at Lucky’s Market, New Pioneer Co-op and Bread Garden Market next week to help raise funds.

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The idea behind the organization, Andrlik said, is to solve two problems at once — waste and hunger.

Grocery stores want to offer an overabundance of fresh food to customers all the time, which leads to good food being thrown out. Instead, food rescuers can pick up these foods to deliver it to those who need it.

Andrlik said the organization alone collected and delivered 1.76 million pounds of food last fiscal year. A total of 36 different sites rely on Table to Table deliveries, including the Coralville Community Food Panty.

John Boller, the pantry’s executive director, said Table to Table brings food to his pantry about four or five times per week.

“They are a vital supporter of what we do,” Boller said. “They are responsible for securing about 40 percent of the food that we put into the hands of our clients.”

Table to Table’s work with food pantries may be even more important to the community as of late, with one in seven Johnson County residents needing food assistance, according to a February Johnson County Hunger Task Force report.

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