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Prince William Food Rescue aims to keep fresh food out of landfill

DUMFRIES — Have unused fresh food? Tap the app.

Prince William County Food Rescue is a new effort underway in the region to pair caterers, restaurants, and grocery stores with food pantries to deliver more fresh produce and dairy items to those who need them most.

The non-profit matches people with unused food to food pantries in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park. Donors are encouraged to go to the organization’s website to notify the organization there’s food available.

That start’s the food rescue process, said program director Aaron Tolson. Then, volunteer driver using the Prince William Food Rescue App is alerted to the food rescue and then are routed to pick up the food.

The average food rescue driver travels about five miles, for about 30 minutes at a time, said Tolson.

The organization’s top mission is to reduce hunger, which Tolson calls “food insecurity,” which afflicts one in seven area residents, he said. The percentage of free or reduced lunches distributed in the county school division is about five points higher than the state 40% average, he added.

In addition to restaurants, gas stations like WaWa and Sheetz, as well as farmers markets in the area have participated. So far, the organization has rescued 1,200 pounds of food from the landfill and has a goal of keeping two million pounds of food from entering the landfill by its third year in operation and reducing food insecurity in the region by 25%.

Two other people are working with Tolson on the Prince William Food Rescue Project. It’s Tolson’s brainchild, something he was launching a year ago before taking on his current full-time role working as a marketing director for ACTS.

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Every Sunday from May until November, the Dale City Farmer’s Market offered to donate their leftover fresh produce to the North Virginia Food Rescue to help those struggling with hunger.

The Dale City Farmers Market has been serving its local community since 1987. It is one of the largest open-air markets in the area. Their first donation last May was over 3,300 lbs of produce. That single donation provided 2,825 meals to food insecure communities.

Since that time, they have completed 28 food donations totaling nearly 127,000 lbs taken to the food bank by Paxton Van Lines. This provided more than 105,800 fresh meals to those in need.

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