MCFOODS held event to combat food waste in schools

EAST BRUNSWICK–As part of celebrating its 25 years of service, the Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services (MCFOODS) held the School Food Waste Reduction Summit.

In partnership with Rutgers University and Elijah’s Promise, the summit was designed to brainstorm ideas on how local schools can reduce food waste and distribute food to those in need, according to a prepared statement from MCFOODS.

The summit took place on July 18 at the Rutgers Institute for Food Nutrition and Health in New Brunswick. This event is one of many to celebrate MCFOODS’ 25th anniversary.

“We are eager to expand our partnership with schools and pantries by working together to reduce waste in the cafeteria, provide our school children with access to these items and move extra supplies into the community through our pantry network,” said H. James Polos, executive director of the Middlesex County Improvement Authority (MCIA), which oversees MCFOODS, said in the statement. “Our children cannot be successful if they don’t have enough to eat or if they are worried about where their next meal might come from.”  

More than 95 attendees attended the event that represented local school districts including Carteret, East Brunswick, Edison, Highland Park, Milltown, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, South River, South Plainfield, Spotswood, Piscataway, and Woodbridge, as well as schools including the Greater Brunswick Charter School and the Academy for Urban Leadership Charter School.

Attendees participated in a “design-athon” which helped develop ideas for implementing a food waste reduction plan in their school community today, next week, next month and next year.

“The Board of Chosen Freeholders is glad to partner with MCFOODS, a longtime ally for our residents through the MCIA; Elijah’s Promise, who has done so much to fight food insecurity in our county; and Rutgers University, a leader in food science and education. This event is sure to produce some great ideas,” Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said in the statement.

“In our country and in our county, it’s not a matter of not having food, it is a matter of not having proper systems in place to get the food to those who need it,” said Freeholder Charles Tomaro, liaison to the MCIA, in the statement. “This is a problem that can be fixed; by working together we can keep food out of landfills and create partnerships to remove barriers and improve access to food that would otherwise be wasted.”

Beginning in the closet of a park police building in Roosevelt Park in Edison in 1994, MCFOODS has since expanded into a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in East Brunswick. In the early years, MCFOODS received and distributed 92,000 pounds of nonperishable foods and necessities to about 30 partner agencies.

In 2018, MCFOODS received and distributed more than 1.9 million pounds of food, including fresh produce, dairy and meat products to over 120 partners.

For more information, visit www.middlesexcountynj.gov/Government/Departments/mcia/Pages/default.aspx

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.