Creating a feeding scheme for those in need
October 13, 2011 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Need help to think about the details of a feeding scheme for homeless and people in need in my neighbourhood.

I live close to a very wealthy neighbourhood in Brazil and would like to create a scheme to collect surplus food that restaurants and bars so I can create a feeding scheme for homeless people.

Initially I am thinking of doing this once a week and also use the scheme to collect clothes, shoes, toys and personal hygiene items that can be distributed as well.

I am writing a plan so I am thinking about the details. I don't own a car so I would need to recruit a volunteer that would be willing to fetch the food from the establishments for a start. Then I would need a place to assemble the meals and someone to donate well as people to help serve and distribute the whole thing, etc...

It would be great if anyone could share experiences around similar projects, things I should do, things be aware of and so on. Thank you so much!
posted by heartofglass to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, first off, sometimes the word "scheme" has negative connotations. I'd go with, "I want to create a food drive," or something like that.

Also, many churches and charities do this. I know there is a Catholic organization where I grew up, St. Vincent de Paul's, for example. So maybe check with the local churches (or your church, if applicable) to see if they have any helpful tips on how to do this? Or maybe even have a system in place. They may also have a dining hall or rectory for putting the foodstuffs together.

Good luck! It's a nice thing you're trying to do. I hope the logistics work out for you.
posted by misha at 1:11 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, first off, sometimes the word "scheme" has negative connotations.

Only in America, pal.

Talk to local restaurants, grocers, food stalls. They regularly they toss food which is good, but not worth it for them to store/save. It usually happens at the close of a business day/week. THAT is the time to hit them up.

That's all the info I can offer. Good luck on this. It sounds awesome.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:14 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with Misha - check with local groups. St Vincent de Paul would be a good one - they have been working to do the same thing in Brazil since the 1600s.

It will be hard to start from scratch - and there is no need to. Do not re-invent the wheel. Find an existing group that you can work with, and help them. An existing group will have lots of ground-work laid for you already.

If you try to build an organization on your own, that will take all your energy. If you find an existing organization, then you can focus on what is driving you - collecting and distributing the food.

I also do not like the word scheme.
posted by Flood at 1:34 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's a step-by-step guide that might be helpful.
posted by stellaluna at 1:35 PM on October 13, 2011

I agree with Flood. There is probably something similar already operating that you can help with.
posted by maurreen at 1:40 PM on October 13, 2011

misha: Well, first off, sometimes the word "scheme" has negative connotations.

hal_c_on: Only in America, pal.

The Oxford English Dictionary disagrees:

A plan, design; a programme of action; the designed scope and method of an undertaking or a literary work, etc. Phrases, to †cast, lay a scheme.

b. Hence, A plan of action devised in order to attain some end; a purpose together with a system of measures contrived for its accomplishment; a project, enterprise. Often with unfavourable notion, a self-seeking or an underhand project, a plot (cf. scheme v., scheming adj.), or a visionary or foolish project. Phrase, to lay a scheme.
This is now the most prominent use, and in some degree colours the other senses so far as they survive.
All italics, bold, and small type from the original.

OP, you might want to get in touch with groups or organizations that are already running feeding programs and see what advice or suggestions they might have, like Food Not Bombs, City Harvest, and Food On Foot. City Harvest have an article on their website about How to start your own food rescue program, and Food Not Bombs have one called Seven steps to organizing a Food Not Bombs chapter in your community.
posted by Lexica at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

You're probably reinventing the wheel. There are food banks in Brazil, and the food-banker terminology you're looking for in relation to your scheme to collect surplus food is called a "food rescue."

The state of Belo Horizante is considered the best in the country at these kinds of operations. Can you update with more details on where you live in Brazil? Just a state or a metropolitan area could help. City Harvest has launched food rescues in Brazil all over the country using their model.
posted by juniperesque at 1:51 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scheme is fine outside the US, people. I thought it was weird too when I lived in the UK, but they just use the word differently. Lexica's links are great.

I don't have Brazil specific advice, but I'd just be sure to specify non perishable items because otherwise you'll have a mess of rotting produce on your hands and that helps no one.
posted by sweetkid at 1:54 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

nthing to attach this endeavor to an existing organization.

Here's an example of an existing endeavor in New Jersey: Shearit Ha-Plate. (Name is a Hebrew pun too boring to explain.) Here is the LinkedIn account of one of its founders (I don't know him except from Google.)

One datapoint: a caterer friend of mine in this part of NJ, a righteous guy for sure, does not participate in Shearit because he is too cynical about food poisoning and doesn't want it on his conscience. But while this is a legitimate stance in North Jersey, I have a suspicion that the benefits might outweigh the risks in, say, Brazil.

Good luck!
posted by skbw at 2:00 PM on October 13, 2011

I'd just be sure to specify non perishable items

There must be a lot of food that goes to waste when it's thrown away by restaurants at the end of the day or even at the end of the dinner rush because it won't keep. Getting that into peoples' stomachs instead of letting it rot would be a great thing, but it would require collecting and distributing it daily or multiple times daily, not weekly. Nthing trying to work with an existing organization here so you don't need to reinvent everything— find one that seems to be doing a good job and add your effort to it.
posted by hattifattener at 2:15 PM on October 13, 2011

Just stopping to say that here in the US, homeless women are always really thankful for donations of super or super plus tampons and good sanitary napkins. Most of the donations they receive include only low absorbancy feminine products because they are over produced and cheaper. Also, lotions, small deodorants, and shampoos are not generally recieved as well because they are otherwise available. Socks, blankets, and coats are always needed.
posted by dchrssyr at 2:45 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My limited experience with such things does include a Second Harvest food bank, a homeless shelter, and things like church donation drives. I will say only that the logistics are, if they are anything, likely an order of magnitude greater than you foresee, if you haven't done such things before.

Particularly with the concept of restaurant scraps, you need to have a way to get them into people very, very quickly. They've probably already been sitting out by the time you get them. At the shelter, where my group managed dinner once a month (other groups did it other days), there would always be stuff dropped off by a store or restaurant that we either couldn't use -- say, day-old bread, or more likely last weekend's bagels, that turns up moldy -- or would be rejected by the clients. (Popular: processed but predictable dishes like ten-gallon-pot macaroni and cheese; unpopular: perfectly good vegetables.) It's just a fact of life.

Even if you are able to assemble the necessary volunteers and a distribution space, you need to have people to communicate to the clients and get them there (our church ran a free monthly community meal for six months before enough people showed up to make it worthwhile; it almost got cancelled but for the tireless dedication of the project's founder/voice). Then you have to consider such things as packaging, transport, storage, and disposal. Who does what part (the restaurants won't do very much of it, I guarantee)? Is it ready for pickup, or delivered to you? Who pays for gas? Who makes sure the drivers are there and on time? How long will the restaurant keep things if your driver is running late? Will it be in containers and on trays or pallets or in boxes, or will your volunteers need to do all that on site? Etc. etc. etc.

I applaud you, but going into this blind is just asking for it to be a colossal failure and a headache of inconsistency and passive-aggressive underappreciation. It's good that you're starting small and making a plan in advance, rather than just diving in.

All that said, the word scheme being presumptively nefarious is definitely an Americanism. Google scheme site:uk shows me a tax free bike scheme, an energy efficiency scheme, and even a "considerate constructors [i.e. contractors] scheme" promoting an improved image for the industry.
posted by dhartung at 3:54 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I believe they speak Portuguese in Brazil.
posted by Houstonian at 6:31 AM on October 14, 2011

Then they won't be put off by the American meaning of 'scheme' either.
posted by dhartung at 1:00 PM on October 14, 2011

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