Don’t let it go to waste

As the global population rises, the world has more people to feed than ever before. Despite this, food waste is a serious global issue. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 30 to 40 percent of food supply is wasted each year in America.

This spring, St. Clair Health and GROW Living Stones recently established a partnership that will make a difference in the local community and beyond. The organizations are collaborating to provide food to those in need in the South Hills region. Additionally, this partnership will help to reduce the environmental impacts of food waste.

GROW Living Stones is a nonprofit organization in the South Hills who is dedicated to donating hot meals to our community members in need and minimizing the food waste throughout the Pittsburgh area. This partnership offers St. Clair the opportunity to give back to the community in a new way by donating the leftover food from our Nutritional Services department.

Since adopting a ‘Waste Nothing’ approach earlier this year, the Nutritional Services team at
St. Clair has worked to identify ways to reduce, rescue, and redirect food from the landfill. Reviewing past goals from Nutritional Services, the team desired to add long-term food donations into their strategic plan, along with several other initiatives to help reduce the waste of food. Partnering with GROW Living Stones will help Nutritional Services accomplish this goal. The food that would otherwise go to waste at the end of each day is now being packaged, frozen and donated so neighbors can come together to enjoy a hot meal.

GROW Living Stones is a team of dedicated volunteers who faithfully serve Sunday meals to neighbors who are struggling, providing them with food, fellowship, encouragement, and real-life help. Many of the people they serve return every month, not just for the food, but also for socialization aspect – meeting new people and having conversations with friends they’ve connected with through these monthly meal events. The core mission of providing a meal to those in need has grown into so much more by giving others the chance to talk and enjoy each other’s company. While some are homeless, most are people who have no job, are out of money, have no family, or are just “down on their luck,” as they often say.

“With a food insecurity rate of about 10 percent in Allegheny County, and food waste making up about three to five percent of the Hospital’s solid waste production every day, we believe this partnership can make an impact,” said Emily Guidash, Director of Nutritional Services, CURA Hospitality at St. Clair Health. “Introducing a food donation program will waste less of what St. Clair already produces and enable GROW Living Stones to redistribute it to those in need.”

In just over a week, St. Clair was able to collect 25 half-sheet pans of donated food to GROW Living Stones. Some of the leftover food included chicken cacciatore, taco meat, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and kielbasa. Nearly 100 people attend GROW Living Stones’ Sunday meal events at one of three locations in the Pittsburgh area. Once all attendees have received their Sunday meal, the organization encourages everyone to take home as much leftovers as they can for themselves, family members, and neighbors.

“Every day, the St. Clair team cares for the people of this region. We also care about them,” said Guidash. “Together with partners like GROW Living Stones, we are working to build on existing strengths and enhance programs that ultimately help to improve the health and quality of life for our neighbors.”