Many people and a handful of organizations have provided me with food to serve to the hungry on G Street, over the years. Most recently, the Las Vegas chapter of Food Not Bombs gave me a car load of crackers, cereal and cookies to hand out.
Most of these foods were a few days past their best-by date, so they wouldn’t be sold in stores. Although they pose no health risk to the consumer and hadn’t even had a chance to get stale yet, stores dispose of this food instead of selling it to the public.
Other reasons that stores might not sell food are damaged packaging, discontinuation of a product, overstock of an item, or cosmetic imperfections. Imperfect produce can be anything from a bruised apple to a banana that is deemed too yellow. I made an entire batch of banana bread muffins with “too yellow” bananas and I have to say, they were amazing.
Many stores and restaurants chose to donate nonsalable food and write the donation off on their taxes. That store would contact a 501-3C, a registered charitable organization, of their choosing. This process is called Food Rescue.
Someone like the dedicated folks at Food Not Bombs pull up to a loading dock, fill their vehicle with random food items and haul them off. When there is an abundance of food and not enough hands, if the amount of food exceeds the need that the groups meets or the storage space that they have available is limited, they reach out to people like me to help with distribution.
Food Rescue is a winning situation for everyone involved. Businesses have a chance to write off the donation, recovering some of their expenses. Groups and people that help to distribute food to the hungry, have to buy less out of pocket. The needs of more people in the community are met.
Beyond that, food rescue helps to eliminate unnecessary waste. Americans throw away about six-billion pounds of food every month. No one should go hungry in a country that can afford to throw away that much food.
Food waste is also a big cause of greenhouse gas production. When all that food waste goes into a landfill, where it is covered with more waste and deprived of oxygen, it produces methane. Landfills are the third largest source of methane gases, according to the EPA. By working together, as a community, we can eliminate food from going into a landfill and keep our air and planet healthier.
Everyone benefits from food rescue.
For my part in this process, I drove down to the Huntridge neighborhood and helped to load my car with hundreds of boxes of snacks. I had to store them at my house for a few days. While I unloaded the food from my car, I took inventory.
I knew that the cookies and cereal boxes would go faster than we could stock them on our table. Most of the crackers, flavored Wheat Thins and Triscuits would go too but there were also a few dozen boxes of plain, salted crackers. Like most people, I love Saltines in my soup or chili and they are my go-to, when my stomach is unsettled. Also, like most people, i can’t imagine sitting down and snacking on a box of them.
There is one other factor that I always consider when I’m making food. Will they be able to taste the love? Call me crazy but a box of dry, salted crackers is not what I think of when I think of lovin’ from the oven.
I looked through my cookbooks, recipe collections and eventually the internet void to find something that incorporated Saltines and showed whoever ate it that I cared to put forth the effort. I found a few recipes that were close but nothing quite right. Luckily, I have a lot of volunteer taste testers and after a few tries I came up with something that I’m proud of.
Chocolate Toffee Bars
50 Saltine Crackers
1 C Butter
1 ½ C brown sugar, packed
3 C chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a large cookie sheet with tin foil and spray thoroughly with pan spray. Set down a single layer of crackers.
In a small saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar. Bring to a full boil and allow to boil hard for three minutes, while stirring constantly. Pour mixture over crackers. Using a wooden spoon, spread mixture evenly over crackers.
Bake for five minutes. Top with chocolate chips. Bake for three minutes. Spread melted chocolate over crackers, evenly. Place flat in the freezer for at least thirty minutes.
You can use a very sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut these into orderly pieces or you can use your hands to break them into jagged pieces.
Keep these cold until they are ready to serve or anticipate chocolate covered fingers.