An artist based in Shelton has joined forces with a team of volunteer “food rescuers” from across the country in an effort to feed 1 million people.
With hopes of their work playing a part in the end of world hunger, the co-founder of the mobile app Food Rescue US, Kevin Mullins, and the owner of ICD Studios located in Shelton, Flahn Manly, have teamed up to help expedite their efforts.
“Hunger in the United States doesn’t make any sense,” said Mullins. “We have enough food to feed everybody, so there’s no reason for us to continue to have this issue.”
Food Rescue US, the mobile app that launched in 2011, is now on its fifth version, and according to Mullins, was created to help expand on the “traditional method” of collecting or donating food that otherwise would have been thrown away.
“It’s kind of like ‘Uber-izing’ the process of hunger relief,” said Mullins. “The traditional method has always been that you have these larger food banks and they raise a bunch of money to buy this food and then the agencies, soup kitchens and food pantries go to the food bank and pick the food up to bring back and then people come there to pick it up for consumption, but frankly, there’s a lot that still goes to waste in that system. It’s not a very sustainable. The cost-effectiveness of that system is not great either, especially when you have so many volunteers willing to do this work for free.”
Food Rescue US provides “food rescuers” with a schedule of dates, times, locations of food donors, and an inventory of what is being donated. Mullins said food safety precautions are taken when accepting donations. The mobile app asks potential donors specific questions about their donation, such as, “Does the donation need to be refrigerated,” or “Has the food been properly stored?”
“The idea is to make it as easy as possible for people to get involved, know what time to show up and what type of food to expect to be given away,” said Mullins.
The app also tells those looking to donate food, whether on a one-time or a regular basis, how to get involved. Mullins said his team behind the mobile app is always looking for new donors all across the country.
“Food is wasted at every level of the food business. It’s unfortunate, but most of the waste just gets attributed to being some of the cost of doing business,” said Mullins.
The joining of forces via social media
After meeting Mullins’s son, Reagan, who is in charge of the mobile app’s social media accounts, at an event at his studio in Shelton, Manly said he knew he wanted to get involved in their efforts.
“I spoke with Reagan and said, ‘Bro, let’s do this,’” said Manly. “Then I found out my father was involved with a world food program in Liberia before I was even born. I just realized that I couldn’t escape this and needed to get involved. Now I’m all in.”
In an effort to use his artistic ability and the platform he’s created via his clothing line to promote Food Rescue US’s initiative, Manly painted four pieces that are being printed and sold to raise money that will ultimately go toward feeding people in need.
“My goal is to help feed 1 million people using my art or clothing line over the next year and a half,” said Manly, who explained that a portion of each print he has for sale for $25 will go to the mission of Food Rescue US.
“Flahn is a testimony of how a person with a skill can use it to help people for the greater good,” said Mullins.
According to Reagan Mullins, one dollar raised is equal to 20 healthy meals.
“Because it’s all rescued food, every dollar donated rescues about 20 meals,” said Mullins. “We don’t have any operating costs as far as buying food goes, so that’s why it’s so cost-efficient and any donation is going to be magnified.”
Mullins said his team strategically uses positivity to help market the initiative, rather than continually telling people the negative effects of not donating.
“There’s a very negative connotation associated with hunger, despite it being a reality. We have the food that we need,” said Mullins. “It’s just a matter of getting it to everyone and making sure everyone is aware of their resources. We make it a point that we don’t motivate negatively. We don’t send out tweets that say, ‘If you don’t donate these kids will starve.’ No, we have enough guilt in our lives and we want to inspire and be positive.
“Our bottom line is to end American hunger. I believe it will happen before 2030,” said Mullins.
“We’re a part of this movement, and this is one of those problems in our country — although big, it has a clear solution. We’re not Dumpster divers. We’re rescuing that wasted food before it reaches the Dumpster and we’re going to get it to the agencies that can use it.”
Food Rescue US may be found in the IOS and Google Play app stores. For more information on how to volunteer as a food rescuer or donor, visit https://foodrescue.us.