Front Burner Blog

A Rescue Mission

Chris Hartman and I are like explorers, on the search for the next big find. We peruse through the QFC and Safeway back rooms, letting out a whoop every time we discover a crate of food with the Food Lifeline label resting on top.

“It’s the thrill of the hunt,” says Chris, “and each time you find more food than expected, it’s like striking it rich! You can imagine all the extra people you’ll help feed”.

In the wee hours of the morning, I meet up with Chris as he inspects his truck, a tall and thoughtful looking man who always wears an old-school driving cap, like a London cabbie. Chris explains his usual tasks on a Grocery Rescue run such as this. It’s simple, yet time consuming; drive to grocery stores along the route, figure what food they’ve set aside to donate, sort it by type of food, box it, and continue on.

Already, I can’t imagine Chris doing all this himself, though most of the time this ends up being the case. As we drive to our first stop, a QFC in Northgate, Chris and I talk about his background in mechanical engineering. Not content to simply build, Chris always had a desire to give, so driving for Food Lifeline is a way for him to make the most impact.

“I couldn’t continue doing my job just to make money,” Chris explains, “When I look back on my life, I’ll remember the people I helped, not the money I made”.

As we park the truck at the loading dock and enter the store, Chris greets all the employees like they’re old friends. We zigzag between towering boxes of food and busy employees in the back room, until we spy our quarry; several boxes filled with chicken breast, beef steaks, and pre-cut fruit.  We transport the food to the truck, where inside we weigh each item, and separate them into boxes based on food type.

We then stop at various QFC’s and Safeway’s across North Seattle. After a warm welcome from store employees, we’re lead to another trove of donated breads, meats, or veggies.

“Most people can’t even afford meat like this”, Chris says as he squeezes the fine cuts of beef, making sure they’re frozen.

Working with their grocery store partners, like Fred Meyer, Walmart, Albertson’s, Target, Metropolitan Market, and Whole Foods, runs like today are why Grocery Rescue has brought in an astounding 93 million pounds of rescued food since 2002.  Food that would have otherwise go to waste. That’s a lot of friendly conversations, sorted boxes of food, and time spent alone on the road for Food Lifeline driver’s like Chris.

With nearly 40% of our country’s food going to the landfill every year, even a truckload of groceries feels like a small step. But Chris looks at it differently.

“It’s the smaller things we do, that add up to make the most difference in people’s lives”.

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