St. Vincent de Paul photos
Program director, Paul Kresek, St. Vincent de Paul program director, tells delegation how recovered food is repackaged and sorted. 
St. Vincent de Paul photos
Program director, Paul Kresek, St. Vincent de Paul program director, tells delegation how recovered food is repackaged and sorted.

As part of World Environment Day in June, the City of Portland and a United Nations delegation highlighted Portland's achievements in reducing food waste and developing sustainable food systems. In addition to a press conference and knowledge exchange with local experts at City Hall, the delegation toured the Portland Farmer's Market and made a site visit to the St. Vincent de Paul food bank in Southeast Portland, where a partnership with the Port of Portland is diverting food from the waste stream at Portland's airport to hungry families in the city and region.

Roughly a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted. In the United States, 30 percent of all food, worth $48.3 billion, is thrown away each year.

St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic volunteer organization, with more than 1,900 volunteers in northwestern Oregon, is at the forefront of food sustainability. The charity's Food Recovery Program, established in 2001, works with local businesses, picking up their over-produced food that would otherwise be thrown away.

Volunteers bring it back to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, repackaging it into smaller quantities and then distribute it to feeding sites immediately or freeze it for use in the network of food pantries throughout the year.

In February, St. Vincent de Paul expanded its food recovery network through a joint effort with the Portland International Airport. Port officials have provided onsite freezers where airport concessionaires can donate unsold, ready-to-eat food.   

“This partnership shows that, together, nonprofits and local businesses can address local hunger in creative and collaborative ways,” says Anna Plaster, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul in Portland.  

This year alone the program has already recovered 58,000 pounds of food. Of that 12,000 pounds have come from the airport.

"It’s a good example of how St. Vincent de Paul is thinking outside the box to solve local hunger issues,” says Paul Kresek, the agency's food recovery director.

Amy Fraenkel, United Nations Environmental Program North American Regional Director, lauded Portland’s achievements.

"The city has been at the forefront of restoring the natural environment through its innovative use of green infrastructure for decades, and is in a leading position to share its environmental strategies and best practices with cities not only throughout the United States and Canada, but also the world,” Fraenkel said.

Pope Francis issued a statement to go along with the day's theme: “We should all remember that throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the poor, the hungry! I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.”