The Middle Mile Program: Feeding More Marylanders While Rescuing Food
Over the past 40 years, we have built a highly efficient food distribution system, but data continues to show that food insecurity levels in Maryland are not improving, despite a strengthening economy. In FY19, we distributed more than 48 million pounds of food – a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year. But it is still not enough.
Our research shows that we need to distribute 61 million pounds annually to meet the true need of the more than 1.5 million food-insecure people who call Maryland home. And to do this, we will have to be diligent and creative in our efforts to source and distribute more food. That’s why we are seeking help from Maryland’s hospitality community to expand food recovery efforts, so we can get more food to more Marylanders, while helping the industry cut down on food waste.
For years, businesses had limited options for managing leftover food – toss it in the dumpster or go through the time-consuming effort to find a local charity that is not only willing to accept the donation but can pick it up in a timely manner.
Enter MealConnect, the easy-to-use app/website that is simplifies the food recovery process. MealConnect does exactly what it says – it connects interested food donors, with MFB volunteers ready to pick up and help get those meals onto the tables of hungry Marylanders.
The MealConnect process is simple:
- A business realizes they have leftover food they can’t use, and sends out a pickup request through MealConnect
- An MFB volunteer driver receives and accepts the request
- The volunteer picks up the food and delivers it straight to a Maryland Food Bank partner
- Hungry Marylanders enjoy a meal, and the business feels good about helping their community.
So far this year, this increased focus has led to the recovery of over 6,200 pounds of usable, leftover food that otherwise would have been thrown away in Baltimore City – that’s the equivalent of roughly 5,167 meals for our neighbors in need.
The Baltimore Convention Center was one of the first organizations to join the program in an effort to do more for hungry Marylanders. Their catering services are handled by Centerplate, a Sodexo company. We recently spoke with regional vice president Michael Barrett to learn why they participate in the program.
“We are so excited by the Middle Mile Program which gives us the chance to connect with the local community, while reducing food waste in our location.”
Centerplate’s staff features a number of graduates from FoodWorks, the food bank’s intense, 12-week culinary training program. “We have some individuals on our team that have experienced food insecurity challenges, so hunger hits close to home,” he added.
And Barrett found that the MealConnect app made the decision to participate in an easy one: “The MealConnect technology is unique and allows us to be able to streamline our food donations which means it gets to the end-user quickly.”
Our volunteers are moved by the direct impact they can see when they drop off food to our network partners. Karen, one of our first volunteers shared “I always enjoyed working in the warehouse, sorting conveyer belt food, and packing up boxes to go where needed. However, being a part of food recovery like this was so much more meaningful and really hit me in the heart. It was the hands-on taking of the food into the room where it would be served and meeting and seeing some of the people it will benefit. Intellectually I know what a valuable service MFB offers to those in need of food, but today’s experience connected and personalized it for me.”
Hungry Marylanders, who access food through our network partners, are delighted to get this food — which ranges from prepared trays of chicken parmesan from Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor, to fresh produce from the Baltimore Farmer’s Market, or even pre-made sandwiches from Pitango Bakery in Fells Point.
This new food recovery venture represents a milestone in our execution of MFB 2.0, our five-year strategic plan, as it allows us to tap into food networks that up until now have been, helping to fulfill our goal to distribute more food.
It also allows us to help Baltimore City achieve their goal of reducing commercial food waste by 50% by the year 2040, and businesses that want to do their part can join us, and make sure their excess food does not end up in the trash.
We’ve had a great start, but we know together, we can do even more to reduce food waste and feed food-insecure Marylanders.