A new student-based effort has teens at Monroe High School collecting unused lunch food headed to the trash and instead they are packing it up for a local pantry to help families in need.
The program, which started last month as classes resumed, has added greatly to the food stocks available for local families, said pantry officials.
“The Monroe FoodShare is a great program for the area. Not only is the food being kept out of our waste streams and nourishing the community, but donations include some of the most highly requested and hardest-to-find items at local pantries, including produce and dairy,” said Levi Grimm, executive director of JEE Foods, a non-profit organization whose mission is to recycle unused food to the needy.
The inflation cost increases of recent years has elevated the importance of local food pantries like JEE Foods, which started in 2018 at Butler Tech and Ross high schools and this year has expanded to include student-led food recovery at Monroe High School.
Food insecurity is increasingly a problem locally and nationally. According to JEE officials, it is estimated that over 80 billion pounds of perfectly usable food is thrown away each year in the United States while millions of Americans have inconsistent food supplies.
Through a volunteer-driven, technology-powered network, food is recovered from roughly 50 businesses weekly and distributed to nearly 100 nonprofits across Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Since its founding, JEE Foods has distributed nearly 8 million pounds of food to those in need.
“The program exemplifies the power of food rescue and how even a single item helps to ensure that our neighbors do not go to sleep on an empty stomach,” said Grimm.
“The FoodShare program results from students recognizing issues in their community and having the drive and belief that they can make a difference. We commend the student’s work and are honored to play a role in helping the project come to life.”
“And our team is thankful to the Monroe School district for empowering the next generation of community-oriented leaders,” said Grimm.
Bonnie Greenwood is a volunteer at the JEE Foods pantry at the Bethany Church in Hamilton and said “once a month, we set up a farmers market of rescued food and hygiene items, allowing guests to shop for items they want for their household.”
“While they shop, we are there to chat, help carry bags, suggest items, pray with them, greet them when they return month after month, and in many cases,” said Greenwood.
“Every little bit that we are receiving is blessing a belly. Even food that is spoiled or unfit for consumption gets composted. We are super excited about the partnership with Jee and Monroe kids to help us care for our community.”