In 2011, Heather Gorman with Salem Health nutrition services noticed the hospital periodically threw away food because the “best by” date had passed.
“Most of the food is perfectly fine to eat, but the hospital cannot sell it,” said Randy Calligan, Salem Health nutrition services retail manager. “Sometimes it includes leftover food at the end of a shift or meal — or items may only be usable for a very short period of time.”
Gorman saw an opportunity: Hungry people in the community need access to nutritious food and Salem Health could help fulfill that need.
“We saw the waste, saw the need and never looked back,” said Gorman.
At first, the hospital had concerns about the liability connected to giving the food away. Gorman researched the situation and found an Oregon Good Samaritan law that protects organizations from liability lawsuits provided they have met some simple conditions.
Gorman then set up the program to be in compliance and contacted the Union Gospel Mission of Salem (UGM) — and created the new system to get food items to those who need it most.
“Even the IRS was helpful and answered all of my charitable donation questions,” said Gorman. “UGM was also great. They answered my legal questions and put me on the right path.”
Salem Health’s food donation program officially launched in September 2011.
“Because of her [Gorman’s] efforts, thousands of people have food that otherwise may not have,” said Calligan.
Each week, the entire nutrition team makes it happen by putting food they would otherwise throw out on a five-foot cart in the hospital’s main kitchen. UGM sends a delivery truck to the hospital weekly to pick up the food.
“We donate anything that is still safe, but we can’t sell or use,” said Gorman. “Everything from prepared salads to bread heels — we’ve heard the mission turns them into bread pudding. We recently sent a case of goldfish crackers, 24 cases of juice and 10 cases of iced tea concentrate. It varies week to week.”
From January to March of 2017, Salem Health donated nearly 1,400 pounds of prepared food to the mission. That amount equates to nearly 1,700 meals.
“Salem Health has been an invaluable partner to UGM,” said Lacie Wheeler, development assistant with UGM. “Homeless men, women and children at UGM have been blessed with numerous donations of prepared food, selfless volunteers and major event support. It’s clear that Salem Health has a heart for the underprivileged in the Salem community.”
Salem Health truly appreciates this partnership with UGM because it focuses on people in need.
“When we think homeless, we often think of panhandlers,” said Gorman. “The reality is that we are all a tragedy away from homelessness. Most of us have a support system to help us through difficult times. For those who don’t, we can provide that support.”
The program also exemplifies how community matters to Salem Health.
“Who’d have thought something so simple could make such an impact? It’s just another way Salem Health improves the nutrition and well being of the community we serve,” said Gorman.
UGM says its always looking for more organizations that might have extra food to donate, especially healthy food items. For more information call 503-967-6388.