Unique Bethesda Food Donation Program Up For National Recognition


Farm to Freezer, a nonprofit that prepares and donates frozen food leftovers to homeless people in Bethesda, is up for a chance to speak at the TEDxManhattan event for "changing the way we eat," in February. After starting the effort this year, the group is one of five national finalists for the event that will be broadcast to local viewing parties of similar nonprofit groups and could open up some new opportunities. Cheryl Kollin and Sue Kirk, executive director of the homeless prevention nonprofit Bethesda Cares, got together to create the program with a wide net of partners including area church commercial kitchens, Whole Foods grocery store and farmers who sell at the weekly Bethesda FRESHFARM farmers market. Kirk told Kollin that Bethesda Cares had more fresh produce donated to them by farmers at the market then they could use without it wasting. So she built a volunteer network that collected between 300 and 400 pounds of donated food a week and saved a portion of it in freezers either by making it into tomato sauces or by using other preservation methods. After 20 weeks of the project, Farm to Freezer successfully gleaned 5,100 pounds of food from the market (much of it from Pennsylvania's Spiral Path Farm) and left Bethesda Cares with 1,500 pounds of food in its freezer that will be used in hot meals served every day this winter to some of Bethesda's more than 70 homeless people. "It starts to connect all these various parts of what I call rebuilding our sustainable food systems," said Kollin, who is a business consultant. The farmers get tax deductions for donations, the homeless get food and the community gets informed about the homeless problem in Bethesda, Kollin said. The group also partnered with Montgomery County's pre-release program. County prisoners months away from being released came to the market to help weigh and distribute items for preparation as a way to satisfy their community service requirements. Kollin and Bethesda Green have hosted a local viewing party for the TEDxManhattan talks the past two years. Now, Kollin has a chance to give it when it happens in February. She also hopes to bring back and perhaps widen the program next year. For more information on Farm to Freezer and to vote, visit the website. Photo via TEDxManhattan

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