Waste Not Want Not began rescuing and distributing food in our community 30 years ago, when one woman, in an effort to help a downtown soup kitchen, approached her local supermarket asking for their short-dated food. From Debra Smyers’ idea to fight hunger by minimizing waste, Waste Not Want Not was born.
Waste Not already had substantial operations when friends of Waste Not chose to transform what was still a group of volunteers into an independent, tax-exempt non-profit corporation in late 2004.
By 2008, our growth resulted in the need for a larger building, so the Board searched for and located a new facility large enough for our immediate needs and anticipated short-term growth (on a property large enough to accommodate additional buildings for future long-term growth).
Since then, Waste Not has convinced 35 local stores, vendors, and restaurants to donate their unmarketable food to us rather than to throw it away. For these “Scheduled Rescues”, one or more of our 258 volunteers show up at the appointed time to collect and transport the food to our facility. They use their own vehicles to rescue from stores, restaurants, and even the Jaguars dining hall, carefully counting, packing, and loading each item. Other volunteers use our only box truck to rescue the larger donations from Pepperidge Farms and Bimbo Bakeries, as well as from Dr. Pepper/Snapple and Pepsi. Last year before COVID, our volunteers made 120 Scheduled Rescues every week, delivering between 4,000 and 7,000 pounds of baked goods, meat, produce, eggs and dairy, cooked foods, and drinks to our building every day by 10 a.m. All the food rescued each day typically was gone by noon, on its way to feed hungry people served that same day by our recipient groups, charities serving the needy.
rescuing and distributing food to 2,200 people struggling to put food on the table every day.
By the end of 2005, Waste Not volunteers were rescuing food 362 days a year, every day except Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.
In 2009, our first full year in our Carnes Street building, Waste Not Want Not rescued 750,000 pounds of food, a 21% increase over 2008 thanks to several vendors that began donating large quantities of food at a time. These larger donations were initially rescued in pickup trucks with trailers, but we decided for safety and efficiency sake to lease a truck in 2010. That year, our 20th anniversary, was the first time our volunteers rescued more than one million pounds in a single year.
Within three years of relocating, Waste Not volunteers doubled the amount of food we provided to those in need, rescuing 1.5 million pounds of wholesome, surplus food in 2012. That year, thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, we were able to purchase our truck and brand it with our logo and contact information. Three days later, we received a call from a manager of a national beverage distributor who had seen the truck, inquiring if we would be interested in rescuing beverages which we have been doing ever since.
We also respond to calls from long-haul truckers with refused loads of food, coordinating recipients to receive food directly from the trucks.