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Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 16, 2023

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Standing in line

While Martha’s Soup Kitchen – located in the First United Methodist Church – strives to feed needy Bowling Green residents, across Wooster Street at the University, leftover food is tossed in the trash daily.

Though BGSU’s Dining Services attempts to eliminate the amount of food that’s wasted, Director Gail Finan has stressed how tough it is to prepare exactly what’s needed each day.

“There’s always going to be something that’s leftover,” Finan said. “It’s trying to minimize the amount that is leftover.”

But Glen and Sherrie Holland of Bowling Green – who rely on the once weekly meals served at Martha’s Soup Kitchen – would appreciate extra food being donated to needy community members.

“If the food is good, it should be given to someone who could use it,” Glen Holland said. “I’ve seen a lot of people go hungry.”

And unlike the University, two local restaurants donate food regularly to the soup kitchen.

Pizza Hut, located at 1099 S. Main St., has been donating their leftover pizza from the Friday lunch buffet since the soup kitchen opened more than a decade ago.

A volunteer from Martha’s Soup Kitchen also picks up breads, bagels and pastries from Panera Bread, 139 S. Main St., on Thursday nights.

Bill Hiser, general manager of Panera Bread, said they give the soup kitchen “whatever is left on the shelf.”

The business’s belief that food shouldn’t be wasted is rare in the corporate world, Hiser said.

“Not many companies do those kinds of things,” he said, referring to the food donations.

But poverty exists in towns and cities across the U.S., and Bowling Green is no exception, said Maxine Miller, coordinator of Martha’s Soup Kitchen.

In 2004, the Ohio State University Extension Data Center reported that 12.1 percent of Wood County residents were living in poverty.

Recently, Miller has seen an increase in the number of people at the weekly meal.

“People think that Wood County is very affluent – and we are, but we have pockets of poverty,” she said.

Miller and other volunteers prepare to serve at least 50 meals each week, and leftover food isn’t wasted.

“We [Americans] throw away so much food, I can’t believe, and there are people starving to death all over the world,” she said. “If anything is left after dinner, we box it up and let them take it home. They love to have that food to take home.”

Martha’s Soup Kitchen has been serving low-income, disabled or unemployed Bowling Green residents a meal every Friday since 1991.

The Hollands – who live on a limited budget – said being able to take extra food home is extremely helpful.

“It helps out a great deal, especially if you’re living on fixed income or, in my case, no income at all,” Glen Holland said.

Though she’s aware of the need, Finan insisted the food that’s thrown out by BGSU can’t be served again, according to federal food handling regulations.

“The rules of good food is that you can re-heat it only one time,” Finan said. “Whatever waste we have is not reusable.”

But other Mid-American Conference schools have found a way to make it happen.

Ohio University in Athens recently implemented Second Helpings, a program designed to donate non-potentially hazardous food – cooked vegetables, french fries, corn bread and pancakes – to a local homeless shelter.

Spearheaded by Stephanie Pleli, a member of OU’s student government, Second Helpings began in January 2005.

“Appalachia is the poorest area in Ohio and there is a huge need,” Pleli said.

Pleli, along with other students, contacted the local health department to create a list of the foods they could donate.

Once they received approval from OU, Second Helpings was established.

“It takes persistence, but it’s possible,” Pleli said. “It’s [Second Helpings] helping a lot of people and it’s worth every hour I put into it.”

Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., distributes leftover food to local men’s and women’s shelters and a juvenile detention center.

When any of BSU’s eight dining centers have food that cannot be served a second time, shelters are contacted to pick up the food.

“It’s been a very positive program for us when we tell our students and customers, ‘No we are not throwing this food away, we are donating it,'” said Karen Adkins, assistant director of personnel and administration at BSU. “Our customers would much rather see us donate to those who really need it rather than put it down a disposal or throw it away.”

Though Finan said she hadn’t previously considered donating leftover food to the soup kitchen, she would support student’s efforts.

“We would work with both students and the health department,” Finan said.

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