The two decade-old non-profit organization collects unused, perishable food from across the city, makes meals out of that food and then distributes those meals to hundreds of local food pantries and shelters. The new facility, just off the North Freeway, will serve as a fresh meat preparation clearinghouse, with freezers and storage that can hold a million pounds of food. The End Hunger Network's Executive Director David Davenport says that fresh meat two years ago was going into landfills. "It's the resource that's needed the most in the hunger-relief system, and it's also the resource that's hardest to get because of the challenges of transporting and preparing fresh meat. This facility will be able to produce 1.7 million individual meals for the hunger-relief system in our area," he says.
The new kitchen will serve a city with a significant hunger problem, with an estimated 660,000 people who are considered "food insecure," not knowing where their next meals are coming from. "With the hurricanes and evacuees in our community and folks here from Beaumont and Port Arthur and such, that number is probably closer to 800,000 right now, so our community has a challenge. But we see this as the soluation to a real solvable problem," says Davenport.
The End Hunger Network supplies meals to major shelters and outreaches in Houston, organizations like the Salvation Army, the Star of Hope and the SEARCH Homeless Project, where Chris Olson is the director of food services. "Too many kitchens serve stale bagels, not because they want to, but because that's all they've got, it's all they can afford. With the food that we're receiving through the End Hunger Network, we're going to be able to produce not only quality food, but quantity food and nutritionally correct food," he says.
Partners like Kroger and HEB, which donates food for the End Hunger Network's Red Barrell Program, hope to increase their involvement after the new kitchen opens.
The new facility should be open by April of 2006. It's estimated 96 billion pounds of food is wasted every year in the United States.