As a military kid, Jim Hall went to 14 schools before finishing high school in Derby. But his parents’ community involvement remained a constant.
“They were always very active in some kind of volunteer activity no matter where they lived,” he said.
Hall carries on that tradition today as a volunteer with ICT Food Rescue, a nonprofit that delivers surplus prepared food from restaurants and other sources to organizations that serve the food insecure.
From Wednesday through Sunday, Hall makes trips in his SUV to Chipotle, Panera and other participating sources, picks up food that would otherwise be thrown away and takes it to homeless shelters and food pantries.
“It’s just an easy way to give back,” he said.
Another volunteer, Margaret Ochs, has a military connection as well: her husband spent his career in the U.S. Navy, which gave her many opportunities to volunteer. ICT Food Rescue appealed to her immediately. “When I heard I could keep food from being thrown away, I thought, ‘What a great idea!’”
Volunteers consult a phone app to see what food rescues are scheduled each day and, if they choose, sign up for one or more. The app lets them know what time to appear and who in the restaurant or store to contact, plus where to take the food.
Some volunteers, like Hall, adopt certain rescues, completing them on a regular basis. His current schedule is one rescue each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and two each on Thursday and Sunday. He also checks the app regularly to see if other rescues need a volunteer. Hall said other volunteers are willing to step up when he has a scheduling conflict with one of his regular rescues.
The amount of food rescue varies according to the day and source, Hall said.
“Panera will fill up the entire car, including stuff in the passenger seat. It will be amazing how much stuff.”
Paneras are a favorite stop, Hall added, “because it really makes my car smell good.”
Paradise Donuts, Outback Steakhouse and Peace, Love & Pie are other stops. The latter once sent Hall away with 118 pies. Hall split them between four nonprofits.
Most of the food is taken to shelters and pantries in the central city, including HumanKind Ministries, Emporia House, Hemingway House, It Takes a Village and The Treehouse, which serves mothers and their children. Union Rescue Mission on north Hillside is another recipient.
“The agencies are good about sharing between themselves when they have too much,” he said. “The goal is for it to be used.”
ICT Food Rescue was started in 2016 by Stephanie Merritt, who was inspired by courses she was taking at Wichita State University after returning to college at age 46. She also had a job where she saw food being thrown away on a daily basis. According to its website, the organization saved and served nearly 243,000 meals valued at more than $500,000 in 2019. It experienced a slowdown during the pandemic but had rebounded to an average of 55 rescues per week by December 2020. It also collects unused condiment and silverware packets from the public every third Wednesday of the month at its office at 1650 N. Fairview.
The organization recently received a $125,555 grant from the city to be used for new headquarters.
To volunteer, donate or learn more about ICT Food, visit ictfoodrescue.com or call 316-409-5565.