Service-Learning & Volunteering

Organization Highlight: Wayside Food Programs

Wayside Food Programs food storage

The students enrolled in FSP 210, Food and the Environment, have the wonderful opportunity to be invited to the Wayside Food Programs headquarters in Portland, Maine. With food sources ranging from farms, grocery stores, food distributors, and trucking companies, Wayside circulates over 2 million pounds of food per year and redistributes them through local pantries, their community meals programs, and the summer pop-up picnics. 

Contrary to popular belief, restaurants don't have as much waste as people think and the biggest source of food recovery that Wayside sees is from trucking companies that off-load foodstuffs due to interior conditions being out of specifications (i.e., a refrigerated truck that gone outside the bounds of temperature for quality assurance, even half a degree).

Most of the food recovered by Wayside is right on the edge of their edible life and the mission of Wayside is finding how to get the most use out of food with a priority ranking of:

  1. Feeding People: Local food programs and pantries
  2. Feeding Animals: Feed for pig farmers
  3. Feeding the Earth: Commercial composters
  4. Creating Energy: Capturing compost gas for energy

Wayside has a single dumpster that is dumped once a month and only because that is the minimum required by the waste company.

Students visiting learned about how Wayside reviews non-perishable foods, including looking for can dents, checking for creases and indications of pinholes that leak oxygen into the closed system. Those who work with food recovery learn a great deal about the meaning behind Best By and Sell By dates and begin to unravel the complex world of marketing and public mindset when it comes to food safety.

Other food programs that Wayside manages include the Community Supplemental Food Programs from the USDA, which includes boxes of non-perishable foods distributed to low income seniors and the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, focused on needy house holds in the greater Southern Maine region.

Wayside also has intake for a diaper bank for single and expecting mothers, as well as young parents with low income, allowing them to collaborate closely with Jewish Family Services. Their smallest but equally valuable program sees the provisioning of Enterol Formula for Maine Medical's cancer children nutrition needs, serving patients without insurance.

Students from FSP 210 not only learned about Wayside, but the many ways Wayside continues to find ways to serve the population and how it supports itself as a non-profit running on a baseline fuel of 10 employees and hundreds of volunteers. Students learned the motto of "Food in and out as fast as possible" and will take that with them to the catering events they observe for the rest of the semester.

Published by Sarah Chang, AmeriCorps VISTA STEM Partnerships Coordinator

*Information and details may not be 100% accurate and are a small snippet of notes captured during the visit.