AZ Giving & Leading: Waste Not

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Waste Not is a Scottsdale-based organization that collects excess food from restaurants, resorts, caterers, grocers and others six days a week. That food, which would normally be tossed into the garbage, is taken to schools, daycare centers, senior facilities and other organizations to feed the hungry. Waste Not Executive Director Dee Mitten will tell us about her organization.

Ted Simons: Tonight in our look at Arizona Giving and Leading we focus on Waste Not, an organization that delivers food from restaurants and grocery stores to the hungry. Executive Director Dee Mitten joins us now to tell us more. It's good to see you again.

Dee Mitten: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Last time you were winning all sorts of awards. Everyone was finally recognizing what you were doing. What are you doing? What is Waste Not?

Dee Mitten: We are feeding the hungry. Collect excess food from restaurants, resorts, Caterers, grocers and we currently deliver it to more than 100 agencies and organizations that feed the hungry. Very, very diverse group of people. Schools, after school programs, senior facilities, daycares, transition homes, some homeless shelters. Everyone that needs a helping hands.

Ted Simons: This is excess food not food that I didn't finish at my meal but food that wasn't presented?

Dee Mitten: Exactly. It's excess food that has been properly maintained. Give you an example. If there's a dinner for 500 people and only 400 attend, 100 extra dinners. If that food has not been placed on the table, not plated, but has been held in the kitchen, there's 100 dinners that are going to waste. Going to go to waste. That's the type of food that we rescue.

Ted Simons: As far as how Waste Not got started, give us a little history here of the was the original goal X, now it's turned into Y?

Dee Mitten: We have had our entire history, which is more than 25 years, singular mission. We take excess food from people who don't want or need it and give it to those that do. That's what we still do today. We're very good at it. We're very precise. We're not a food bank.

Ted Simons: Compare. Compare yourself to a food bank.

Dee Mitten: That's why it's harder for people to get their arms around us because we're behind the scenes. We're a mobile operation out there working behind the scenes. The primary differences between Waste Not and a food bank are we don't warehouse food. It's easy for people to go to a food bank and participate in a mission. But with Waste Not we're behind the scenes very lean, efficient. Our team of five drivers are on routes. They pick the food up in the morning and are distributing it throughout the day. That is one primary difference. The other is that we do collect food from restaurants, caterers.

Ted Simons: So Ted's Restaurant figures out we had a special on meatloaf and I don't think we'll be able to sell all of it. By, what, 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 I call you?

Dee Mitten: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: I say we're doing a special on meatloaf I may have some extra?

Dee Mitten: Give us notification. As much as you can. That's all there is to it. It's very -- we're so easy, so flexible. We just want people to be aware of us. The need for food, Ted, is overwhelming. My gosh, it's devastatingly hot out. People are hungry. When you think about one in four kids going to bed in our community hungry every night we all need to step up to the plate. If there is excess food or you know of it, certainly call Waste Not.

Ted Simons: You deliver to schools, senior centers, all points in between. Homeless she shelters?

Dee Mitten: Yes, we do transition homes, rehab centers. Homeless shelters much currently more than 100 organizations.

Ted Simons: Your relationship with restaurants, Caterers, were people raising eyebrows and how difficult is it to get a restaurant to say, okay, let's do it?

Dee Mitten: Well, that is our strong suit is establishing great relationships with our donor barns. That's the life blood. That is our life blood. Without our donors People are going to go hungry. We spend a lot of time. We cultivate that relationship. They need to know they can depend upon us. We can depend upon them. Here's the thing. We don't know every day exactly what we're going to receive. We don't. That's another facet of it. Our drivers are constantly making decisions as to how, what food can best be used where. So it's a logistics marvel out there behind the scenes.

Ted Simons: What are your greatest challenges? The challenge is the heat. Our vehicles, we have been in a circumstance that's very unusual, we had two trucks down. I will tell you when we can't deliver food, first of all the people that are donating food are depending on us to pick it up. So when our trucks are down the people that are receiving food, it's devastating for our drivers to have to tell them that we have got the heat has gotten to our vehicles and that's exactly what's happened. But we are through that. So those are expenses that come along that you don't anticipate in the summer. People that need food that weren't served, so those are ongoing challenges.

Ted Simons: Last question. What's next for Waste Not?

Dee Mitten: Well, we are in the process of creating another route. We will be. A little bit further on into the summer and the fall. It's -- I'll put it this way. We never have to look for people that are hungry. They find us. But we are seeking new food donors, new opportunities, new relationships, so anyone that could work with us in that regard we would be very pleased to talk with.

Ted Simons: You're doing fantastic work. Continued success. Thank you so much.

Dee Mitten: Thank you, Ted.

Dee Mitten:Executive Director, Waste Not;

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