Food Recovery | The River Food Pantry
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Food Recovery

Food Recovery

Food recovery is the practice of collecting food—that would otherwise go to waste—from food retailers and distributing it to people facing food insecurity.

Through our food recovery program, The River Food Pantry rescues over 1 million pounds of food and supplies each year from generous local retailers to nourish our community. These retailers include grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, food banks, food pantries, farmers markets, and more throughout Dane County. In 2021, we recognized over 50 local retailers as Food Waste Fighters for their significant donations of food and supplies to The River.

The food we recover is edible, but often not sellable. Products may be at or past their “sell by” dates or considered imperfect to sell, such as bruised produce or day-old bread. Other times, the food is unblemished, but retailers may have made or ordered too much. They may have good pieces of food (such as scraps of meat) that are byproducts of the process of preparing foods to cook and serve. Also, food manufacturers may donate products that marginally fail quality control, or that have become short-dated. All the food The River recovers is reviewed by a staff member or volunteer before it is distributed to our customers.

The River’s food recovery program helps to increase the variety and amount of food we provide while minimizing waste. From fresh produce and prepared meals to hygiene supplies and nonperishables, the items we rescue are quickly distributed to Dane County households facing food insecurity through all our services. To reach people who do not use our pantry, we also share excess donations of recovered items with our redistribution community partners.

Together, we are fighting waste to nourish more people!

To learn how to contribute to The River’s food recovery program, please contact Director of Operations, Helen Osborn-Senatus, at or (608) 661-1223.

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