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White Pony Express Food Rescue: Your Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between hungry and food insecurity? Are there any benefits to food rescue? These and more of your burning questions about the White Pony Express food rescue program

1. What is food rescue?

Food rescue involves taking excess food that is not sellable but is still perfectly good from retail food establishments, commercial distributors, and professional kitchens and then redistributing it to those in need. This food, which would otherwise be discarded, is not spoiled, rotten, or out of code. The food may not look perfect but is still nutritious and delicious.

2. How is hunger defined?

Hunger is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by prolonged food deprivation. It is also the recurrent and involuntary lack of access to food.

3. What is food insecurity?

Food insecurity is a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food, as well as a limited or uncertain ability to acquire suitable foods in socially acceptable ways. A household that is "food insecure" lacks access to affordable and nutritious food to support a healthy life.

4. Who is hungry or food-insecure?

Approximately 1 out of every 6 people in Contra Costa County and in California are food insecure, meaning these individuals or families struggle to find their next meal. Women in food-insecure households frequently are at the greatest risk, depriving themselves of nutritionally adequate foods to make those foods available to their children and husbands. Food insecurity is a much bigger problem nationally:

  • Over 50 million people in the United States live in hungry and food-insecure households. More than 16 million are children.

  • One in six Americans does not have enough food to eat and requires emergency food assistance.

  • One in five suburban households face food insecurity.

  • One in five children are born into food-insecure households.

5. What are the benefits of food rescue? Isn’t it just easier to compost food waste?

In addition to keeping food out of landfills — thereby mitigating the negative environmental impact food waste has on our environment — food rescue addresses systemic problems like food insecurity and lack of access to healthy food. In California, 1 in 8 people is food insecure, meaning they do not always know where their next meal will come from. Perishable products such as fresh fruits and vegetables are among the most wasted food products. By using this surplus, food rescue can help food-insecure individuals gain access to the types of foods they might not ordinarily be able to afford. While composting is valuable, we believe that distributing fresh, healthy food has a greater human impact than composting, especially with the need being so great.

6. How big is the food waste problem?

Food is wasted in enormous proportions, not only in California but also all over the world. Here are some facts about food waste:

  • The amount of food Americans waste every day (40 % of the food produced1) is enough to fill the Rose Bowl stadium in California.

  • $218 billion worth of food is thrown away each year.

  • Decomposing food in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is twenty-five times more potent than carbon dioxide.

  • Nearly one quarter of total freshwater consumption per year is used to produce food that is ultimately wasted.

  • On a per-capita basis, food waste represents 1,250 calories of food per person per day.

7. Why do businesses have such huge amounts of food waste?

There are numerous reasons why businesses waste so much food. Consumer preferences and company standards for perfect-looking produce cause supermarkets to reject or discard produce with minor, superficial imperfections. Supermarkets cater to customers’ needs, which means they must remain fully stocked at all times, even if that results in wasted food. In most cases, it is easier for supermarkets to throw food out at the end of the day than to find another home for it. That’s where White Pony Express comes in — we offer a simple, streamlined service for food vendors that provides them a tax break, reduces trash collection costs, and allows them to help feed people in their own communities.

8. What is the SB1383?

The State of California’s recycling board (CalRecycle) established a State Bill (SB1383) which requires food producers in California to reduce their disposal of organic waste by 50% in 2020 and 75% by 2025. We are encouraged by these regulations to reduce food waste in landfills. We are working with CalRecycle and Central Contra Costa County Solid Waste (Recycle Smart) to educate businesses on their options for diverting food waste from the waste stream. We hope to form new partnerships with food businesses looking to donate excess food in compliance with the regulations, which go into effect in 2022. More information is available here.

9. How is White Pony Express different from a food bank?

Our difference is in the types of foods we rescue and distribute. White Pony Express primarily focuses its rescue efforts on highly perishable nutrient-rich foods and then delivers to our recipients the same day it is received. Nearly 90% of the food WPE distributes is perishable and 70% is highly perishable. We do not ‘bank’ food because we want to ensure our recipients receive food at its maximum freshness. Also, unlike some food banks, White Pony Express never charges a fee to the recipient agencies for the food it delivers.

10. How does your food rescue program work?

Operating 7 days a week, 364 days per year, our program rescues 13,000+ lbs. each day that includes high-quality, mainly perishable, surplus food from local grocers, retailers, farmers markets, restaurants, catering companies, test kitchens, and wholesalers. This abundance is then culled for freshness, sorted, and lovingly delivered by our volunteer teams in refrigerated vehicles the same day or next day to 70 local organizations serving those in need.

11. What is White Pony Express’ mission?

WPE’s mission is to help end hunger and poverty in Contra Costa County by delivering the abundance all around us to those in need. It is all of us helping all of us.

12. Are you a faith-based organization?

No, we are not. White Pony Express originated under the local faith-based group, Sufism Reoriented, but expanded rapidly and became a separate entity. In March of 2014, we incorporated as an independent nonprofit public benefit 501(c)(3) corporation, with the goal to uplift lives through a broad-based community program. White Pony Express welcomes volunteers, staff, and recipients from all walks of life, regardless of their religious beliefs.

13. Can I receive food from White Pony Express?

If you're interested in learning more about the requirements to become a WPE Food Rescue recipient organization, please contact us.

14. How can someone volunteer for White Pony Express?

Simply sign up for a tour and quick introduction to learn about what we do and current opportunities. Most volunteering activities at White Pony Express require that you first attend an orientation session.

15. Can my company donate our excess food to White Pony Express?

Of course! We welcome any new donor that is interested in helping the local Contra Costa County community. We can help also help you with SB-1383 compliance! If interested in finding out more please email us.

16. I hosted an event with catered/prepared food and there are leftovers! Can I donate them?

Yes, you may! Our criteria include food that was properly prepared and handled in a certified commercial kitchen, kept at the proper temperature, and was never handled by the general public at any point. (please see FAQ #17 for our pickup criteria)

17. Can you come pick up my food donation from me?

Generally, we require 300 lbs. or more in donations for us to come pick up from you. If your donation is smaller than 300 lbs. you may wish to contact organizations like Copia or Postmates FoodFight! to pick up your food and deliver it to WPE. We will be rolling out a new app-based food donation pick up system in the next few months… stay tuned!

You can always drop off your donations at our distribution center: 3380 Vincent Rd #107 Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 from 8AM-4PM, (preferably after 11AM), 7-days-a-week.

18. Do you have a nutrition policy?

We prefer to only receive and distribute fresh, healthy, and nutrient-dense foods to our recipients. We always welcome eggs, dairy, meats/proteins, and produce donations.

19. How is White Pony Express Food Rescue different from other hunger programs?

We rescue food, we don’t bank it. Food we pick up is delivered ASAP to 70+ recipient organizations throughout Contra Costa County. White Pony Express bridges the gap between the haves and have-nots and helps spread the abundance in our community to the food insecure, many of them our friends, relatives, or neighbors.

20. What about liability?

Both the federal government and the state of California have enacted laws to protect food donors from liability:

  • The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act passed by Congress in 1996, protects businesses that donate food in good faith from being held liable should someone become ill. The only exception to the law is in the case of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

  • Additionally, California law AB-129 states, “except for injury resulting from gross negligence or intentional misconduct in the preparation or handling of donated food, no person, gleaner, or food facility that donates food that is fit for human consumption at the time it was donated to a nonprofit charitable organization or food bank shall be liable for any damage or injury resulting from the consumption of the donated food."

21. What about food safety?

The food we receive is always handled with food safety in mind. It is imperative that all staff, volunteers, drivers, and navigators adhere to WPE’s Health and Safety policies. These are clearly established and rigorously adhered to policies to ensure health and safety at WPE, our donor organizations, and ultimately our recipients. For prepared foods, our criteria includes that the food has been prepared in a certified commercial kitchen. All food is transported to and from our distribution center in Pleasant Hill in refrigerated vehicles.

22. Are donations tax-deductible?

Food donors are advised to consult with their tax adviser for information on tax deductions. For information on tax credits in California, please see Chapter 503, Statutes of 2011 (Fuentes, AB 152), regarding donations to food banks, voluntary contributions, and income tax credits.

23. Where does the food go?

Rescued food is taken to a variety of not-for-profit agencies feeding hungry people in Contra Costa County. Food is transported in our refrigerated vehicles to more than 70 local, not for profit organizations, including: food pantries, shelters, agencies for victims of domestic violence, senior adult centers, soup kitchens, substance abuse and rehabilitation programs, medical daycare facilities, churches and agencies helping support the working poor.

24. If it is good food, why isn't it consumed?

Good food isn’t consumed for a variety of reasons. Overbuying, incorrect consumer choice forecasting, and manufacturing and distribution issues. Even weather conditions can have an effect on leftover food amounts. Edible, nutritious food is being wasted in almost every facet of the food industry

25. I’m considering making a financial donation and want to know how my money will be used.

Ninety-eight percent of every dollar we raise goes directly into our programs. White Pony Express has been designated a 2019 Platinum Seal of Transparency by the Guidestar Exchange and was named 2018’s California Nonprofit of the Year.

26. Wouldn't it be more efficient to give food directly to the pantry or shelter than to White Pony Express?

White Pony Express can deliver to more people and a greater diversity through its partnership with more than 100 agencies, which in turn serve tens of thousands of people each week. Additionally, smaller agencies with fewer resources have an equal opportunity to share in the fresh food White Pony Express delivers.


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