WASTE NOT WANT NOT: 1990-2004
In 1990, one woman decided to help the St. Francis Soup Kitchen by asking her neighborhood grocery store to donate the bread approaching its “sell-by” date instead of throwing it away. From her idea and efforts, Waste Not Want Not emerged. Over the years, Waste Not grew from a one-person effort, supported by Grace Episcopal Church, to a business on which many local charities depend. In November of 2004, at the suggestion of Grace Episcopal Church, friends of Waste Not considered the feasibility of transforming what was then still a group of friends housed by the church into an independent, non-profit corporation. At that time, Waste Not had had low public visibility and limited fundraising experience. Yet, unlike a start up non-profit that could start small in a small space with small expenses, Waste Not already had substantial operations. Waste Not would not be able to survive for long if it had to pay rent upon incorporation, before becoming proficient at fundraising. When this dilemma was presented to Grace Episcopal Church in November 2004, the vestry generously committed to providing Waste Not with “this [the 500 sq-ft building occupied by Waste Not at 142 Kingsley Avenue] or comparable space for a period of 20 years.” Relying on this commitment, Waste Not incorporated.
WASTE NOT WANT NOT: 2005 -2008
Upon Waste Not Want Not’s incorporation, the board and numerous volunteers have worked diligently to promote our mission and increase our visibility. Our board and key volunteers cultivated food donors and spoken at countless church and civic meetings to recruit volunteers and solicit financial support. We were featured in the Times-Union, on Channel 4 News, Channel 12 News, and NPR’s Morning Edition, at yet Waste Not still remained a fairly well-kept secret. However, Waste Not did see a steady an increase in food donations, recipients, volunteers, financial support, and awards and recognitions during this time.
Waste Not Want Not’s success in rescuing more food each year resulted in both a benefit and a challenge. As the economy worsened, Waste Not was able to provide more food to existing recipient organizations (many of which experienced a 50-70% increase in demand that year) and move many groups from the waitlist to our weekly schedule in 2008. However, Waste Not reached the maximum capacity of our building. Volunteers regularly had to work outside the building which is not ideal for the volunteers or the food, especially in the summer heat, winter cold, or stormy weather. The Board searched for and located a new facility large enough for our needs and anticipated short-term growth on a property large enough to allow the construction of additional buildings for future long-term growth. Waste Not entered into a 5-year interest-only mortgage and purchased the property in 2008. Our volunteers remodeled the building and relocated the business without missing a day of distributing food. Had we not moved when we did, we would have had to refuse food offered to us later in that year.
WASTE NOT WANT NOT: 2009-2015
In 2009, in our new building, Waste Not Want Not rescued 750,000 pounds of food, a 21% increase over 2008 thanks to several large bakeries that began to donate large quantities of food at a time. In 2010, our 20th anniversary, we leased a truck in order to rescue these large donations more safely and efficiently. That year, for the first time ever, Waste Not Want Not rescued over one million pounds in a single year, saving local charities more than $2,000,000. We continued to grow and within three years of relocating, we doubled the amount of food we provided to those in need, rescuing 1.5 million pounds of wholesome, surplus food in 2012. By 2013, we were making 111 rescues a week and by 2015 we had increased to 145 scheduled rescues each week. As a result, Waste Not was able to provide more than 4,200 meals a day last year.