Rescuing food and families

FeedBHM volunteers partner with local establishments to reduce food waste

by Stephanie Gibson Lepore
Content Director, Bham Family magazine

Photographs courtesy of FeedBHM

Grace Klein Community (GKC) is a 12-year-old nonprofit based in Hoover, and the organization has long rescued food from local restaurants and grocers, instead delivering it to families across Birmingham and the state. However, notes Rachel Petry, FeedBHM Junior Board Sponsor, “The volume and need for food dramatically increased during Covid in early 2020, and that is where the FeedBHM program was born.”

FeedBHM is the Food Rescue program of GKC. According to their website, “GKC is now in its 12th year of providing support through food rescue, repurposing and sharing to support food-insecure families in the Birmingham area. In 2020, we rescued over $2 million worth of food donations. This rescued food would have been taken to landfills, but we are able to put that food in the hands of families in our community who need food assistance.”

GKC notes that, in 2021, food insecurity still impacts more than three million people in the state—that’s 71% of the adult population and 29% of the child population, meaning one in five children faces hunger.

The FeedBHM program was launched to help GKC strategically focus on food rescue growth in terms of both volunteers and food donation partners. GKC then coordinates the food distribution. Currently, GKC/FeedBHM rescues food seven days a week and organizes that food six days a week at six different drive-through locations in Birmingham. In addition, they work with more than 80 partners to distribute food across 40 counties in Alabama. Because of this—and more than 100 food donation partnerships—they have fed more than 38,000 homes and over 154,000 people.

“We pick up food from bakeries, cafes, restaurants, grocers, farmers, and even large catered events,” says Rachel. “We have food rescue pickups 7 days a week from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. Almost every hour of the day, there are multiple pickups of rescued food happening across our Magic City.”

She notes the key to success with rescued food is getting it into the hands of those who need it, so it can be consumed quickly. “We have a small staff that runs the food rescue operations,” Rachel explains. “The logistics and coordination of 700-plus volunteers rescuing 100,000-plus pounds of food each month is mission critical. We have a lean and mean staff who love the people of Birmingham and want to share the love that God has shown them.”

Admitting that it’s hard to name just one (or even a few!) of the local businesses that support FeedBHM, Rachel says some of their most recent food rescue partners include Local Source Market, Pizza Grace, Fit Five Meals, BlueRoot, Heavenly Donut, Miami Fusion Cafe, Pappa’s Grill, The Joyful Food Co., Troups Pizza, Meals by Misty, Shipley’s Donuts, Mi Pueblo, The Homewood Gourmet, Gus’s Fried Chicken, and Birdsong Farmer’s Market. In 2021, the organization rescued more than one million pounds of food; in 2022, FeedBHM wants to double that number. “We are ramping up as a sustainability partner of The World Games. We are thrilled to be able to help support sustainability and grow food rescue here,” says Rachel. “We will need more volunteers to help us in July 2022 and beyond, and we also welcome financial support. We have ongoing operational facility costs including staff, refrigerators, freezers, and trucks. Our current campaign is”

More volunteers are key, so the organization was proactive in addressing the simplest way to attract new helpers. “During the pandemic, the need for food exponentially increased and GKC wanted to be able to provide this resource for those experiencing food insecurity,” says Rachel. “We researched other food rescue agencies and platforms and in the first quarter of 2021, we launched a Food Rescue Web-App. This allows volunteers to select a food rescue pick-up on their own schedule and location. The Food Rescue App is like Uber for rescued food. It promotes a gig-style approach to volunteering. An average rescue takes less than an hour and can result in about 100 pounds of food.” Interested volunteers can sign up through the web-app at, where they can check out the schedule and choose “I’ll try it” for a one-time food rescue, or “I’ll adopt it” to commit to a regular pick-up.

“This is a great way to volunteer as a family!” notes Rachel. “We volunteer as a family every Sunday morning before church. Our kids help us box up the food and understand what it means to love a neighbor. It’s a fun way to spend time with family or friends or even a date. We love building community, and food rescue is one avenue to connect and help give back.”

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