From the Start: New Haven Food Salvage Project

From the Start: New Haven Food Salvage Project

'r kids outing at LIghthouse Park

It all started with the potato skins served at a New Haven restaurant on Elm Street. The eatery was a block off Broadway in the heart of Yale University. Its nearby neighbors wereYankee Doodle and the Educated Burger.

The year was 1981. And Helen verDuin Palit managed the Yale University’s Dwight Hall Soup Kitchen, which was across the street from that Elm Street restaurant. One day after work, she popped in for a drink and order of those potato skins. Knowing how much perfectly edible food is thrown out by restaurants every day, Palit asked its owners what they did with the insides of those potatoes. The next morning, more than 25 gallons of potatoes found their way from the restaurant to the soup kitchen and into the soup.

Inspired, Palit founded the New Haven Food Salvage Project and began contacting other local food companies for donations. The response was overwhelming. Soon so much food was being delivered that Helen was directing the surplus to other soup kitchens
and shelters in the New Haven area.

From the start, The Community Foundation was there with a $25,000 grant from the Caroline Silverthau Fund to support the startup costs of New Haven Salvage Project. The Silverthau Fund, established by a bequest in 1942 at The Foundation, provides support for the material needs of the poor, including food and shelter. 

In 1982, Palit moved to New York, and she looked for an organization that distributed surplus food to the needy,like she had done in New Haven. Finding no model, she founded City Harvest. Her success in New York inspired people from other cities across the United States and Canada to want their own Harvest program. Helen was nominated by President Herbert Walker Bush as a “Point of Light” for her volunteer work. In 1990, she founded America Harvest, a nonprofit, that trains individuals in how to develop and manage a local perishable food recovery in their communities. There are over 1,300 Harvest programs around the world that have provided more than seven billion meals. The Community Foundation has a longstanding investment in supporting the food safety net for Greater New Haven. Through unrestricted grantmaking and donor advised funds, The Community Foundation has granted more than $1 million in the past five years to organizations addressing food insecurity. 

Did you know? 

Nearly half a million Connecticut residents struggle with hunger and more than 127,000 children are food insecure.

This article is part of a series of stories celebrating The Community Foundation's 90th Anniversary.

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