When you’re shopping at the grocery store, do you ever notice the employees working diligently in the produce department to ensure that the bins are stocked with fresh, blemish-free fruits and veggies? Ever wonder what happens to all of that “less-than-desirable” produce after they rotate it out of those bins?
I recently learned that if arrangements are not made by not-for-profit groups in the community to “rescue” this produce, much or all of it may end up in the landfill.
Luckily, here in Omaha, Nebraska, we are home to produce rescuers like David Hibler (a.k.a., “Dr. D”). Dr. D. began rescuing produce 30 years ago – first in Lincoln, and now here in Omaha – when he discovered that produce was being thrown away while many in need went without. Chad and I were privileged earlier this month to meet Dr. D. and to assist with his mission one brisk fall afternoon. It was an inspiring time – - to say the least.
Pictured to the left is an example of the amount of produce that’s available to be rescued daily at Whole Foods Market Omaha (click photo to enlarge). Upon closer inspection, I discovered that some of it was smashed or molded beyond the point of being suitable for human consumption…but the vast majority of it is entirely usable – as long as it will used right away! As part of his “Community Produce Rescue,” Dr. D. drives to Whole Foods Market in Omaha every Wednesday and Sunday to pick up a truckload of discarded fruits and veggies. Store employees save the produce for Dr. D. in the back room – so, no worries if you thought he was dumpster diving!
From there, Dr. D. hauls the loot to the Benson Plant Rescue (another non-profit started by Dr. D. and his wife Judith) at 7230 Maple Street. Along with any volunteers that may be on hand, he sorts out the rotten items from the good. (Even the rotten items are put to good use through the Benson Plant Rescue’s worm composting program!)
Dr. D. then delivers the freshly sorted produce free of charge to various low-income groups, homeless shelters, food pantries, and non-profit group homes in the Omaha area. Often it’s a full day’s work, but Dr. D. is a man on a mission!Now, what started out as one man’s project 30 years ago is becoming a partnership between Benson Plant Rescue, Centering Corporation and No More Empty Pots. And, as I’ve been learning, they have exciting plans for this Community Produce Rescue in the future!
If you would like to be involved in this growing mission of food reclamation, please send an email to CommunityProduceRescue@cox.net and join this group’s newsletter list to learn how you can participate!
Pictured here to the right is the kind and generous “Dr. D.” enjoying some fishing in Canada! (Click photo to enlarge.)