According to a report produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than one quarter of America’s food, or about 96 billion pounds per year, goes to waste. Kentlands resident and restaurant manager Brett Meyers saw this firsthand every day. Instead of standing idly by and perpetuating the trend, Meyers decided to step in and create a way for that excess food to be channeled to folks in need.
As a response, Meyers cooked up a nonprofit, Nourish Now, that has donated nearly 80,000 pounds of food to those in need since its inception in May 2011.
“Many restaurants were not educated about food recovery,” said Meyer. “The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was passed in 1996 and outlined ways that unused food could be recovered without liability. So I took classes and became a certified food handler and went through the steps of founding a 501c3. It took a while to get it off the ground, but when we did, Panera Bread was the first one on board.”
Through the Montgomery County Social Services Agency and word of mouth, Nourish Now currently serves over 35 outlets for feeding the needy in the metropolitan area including Manna Food Center and the Coalition for Homeless in Washington, D.C.
“We have a schedule of pickups with participating restaurants, but we also sponsor canned food drives,’ explains Meyers. “High Point Catering is one of our biggest contributors with pick-ups every Monday year-round. My policy is to get the food out the door as quickly as possible both because we deal in fresh food [and] also because it does no good to have a warehouse full of food. The food needs to get out to the people who need it.”
Meyers is particularly excited about his newest alliance with Montgomery County Public Schools. “We recently began delivering fresh fruit to schools for their before- and after-school programs. Magruders grocery store donates [its] extra produce once a week, and we get that out to schools,” he said.
This Thanksgiving, Nourish Now will prepare fresh-cooked turkey dinners for approximately 50 families. Meyers receives “hams from Honey Baked Hams, and all the sides are donated through food drives. We cook everything in the kitchen we have at the Universities of Maryland at Shady Grove and then deliver it to the families.”
Through community outreach, Meyers has culled a network of people that he calls upon to donate time for special projects, such as the Thanksgiving meals, but otherwise he depends on five interns and approximately 10 volunteers monthly. The interns and volunteers do everything from research for new opportunities to help the needy and packaging food to working at food drives.
As the only full-time employee of Nourish Now, it would be understandable if Montgomery County native Meyers was overwhelmed, but he shows no signs of slowing down.
“It is inconceivable to me, with the amount of good organizations devoted to feeding the hungry, that there are still hungry people here. Sadly, 95 percent of the people signed up for services with us are permanent, and that number grows each time we sponsor an event.”
Many organizations will opt to sponsor a food drive as a means of support instead of writing a check, which is fine by Meyers as food drives are “one of the easiest and fastest ways to bring in food.” His goal is to add more donors to meet the needs of a growing list of recipients and raise awareness to end hunger.
As Thanksgiving approaches, there is no better time to appreciate the efforts of those who are helping to feed the hungry.
For more information about Nourish Now, including a list of participating organizations and opportunities for donating and volunteering, visit www.nourishnow.org.