DAVISON — A retired eye doctor from Davison is doing his part to help prevent food waste and combat hunger in the Genesee County area.
Dr. Harold Steinman, who was an optometrist at Eyecare Associates in Davison for around 20 years, has been instrumental in spreading the food rescue initiative across the county. For the past four years, he has worked with local school districts, hospitals and catering services to transfer fresh excess meals to area pantries, charities and churches.
“Our country is the wealthiest in the world, yet we still have hungry people,” Steinman said. “My thought has been: ‘What can we do to rescue food that goes to waste and get it to people who need it?’”
Steinman’s initiative began four years ago when he helped to launch a food rescue program that provided Outreach East with unused, excess food from the cafeteria kitchens of Davison High School and Hahn Intermediate.
Since then, Steinman has connected with 10 area schools to get involved with food rescue programs, including the Davison, Flushing and Grand Blanc school districts. He has also worked with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and hospitals in the McLaren Health System.
Jan Lebert, director of Outreach East in Davison, said that the food rescue partnership with Davison Community Schools provides her organization with 40 meals a week and around 5,000 pounds of food each year.
Steinman was also influential in helping to start a partnership between the Flushing Christian Outreach Center (FCOC) and Flushing Community Schools, which provides 240 meals a month for the FCOC.
Prior to beginning his work in Genesee County, Steinman visited food rescue programs in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. to learn more about the issue of food waste. He said the experience was an eye-opener.
“Approximately 40 percent of otherwise healthy food in the United States is discarded,” he said. “It’s like throwing away half the produce in a grocery store.”
As referenced by Steinman, food waste has become a major problem. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated that the nation’s annual waste of excess food could feed 36.5 million people with three meals every day of the year.
Meanwhile, one in seven Americans lives with food insecurity.
Despite this reality, Steinman said that food rescue programs like the Outreach East/Davison Schools partnership are helping to stem the tide of food waste and hunger.
“Food rescue programs help to reduce the budgets for food pantries and provide healthy, fresh food for recipients,” he said. “The need is great here in Genesee County, but wonderful people are getting involved to bring positive change.”