CONROE, Texas – When you enter the kitchen at the First Christian Church in Conroe, you’ll find it filled with volunteers making to-go plates and organizing food donations.
The group is led by longtime volunteer Bobbie Harris, who can often be heard laughing with others and directing.
“We start on Sunday morning at 9 o’clock. We’re here every morning through Wednesday,” Harris said.
The group prepares to distribute food to between 150-160 families in the county. They get donations from area groups. Harris sings the praises of a new group, “Keep Us Fed Montgomery Co.”
The organization partners with area shelters, soup kitchens, low-income housing groups, and other non-profits. The organization came out as a part of Leadership Montgomery County’s class project in 2015. Three years later, the organization became a 501(c)3 non-profit.
“We started out picking out approximately 20,000 pounds for the year in 2015,” said Executive Director, Tiffany Nelson. “Now in 2022, we’re picking up 120,000 pounds per month.”
Nelson says unless the supermarkets or restaurants partner with another group, pounds of food gets thrown out.
“It’s still good, but it needs to be moved quickly,” Nelson said. “It might be something that there’s just too much of. It might be something that a label is upside down. It might be something that is made fresh daily and it’s the second day and it’s something and they can’t sell it.”
She says each day, volunteers visit participating locations and collect extras.
KPRC 2 followed as retired oil and gas professional Dennis Naeger collects 100 pounds of meat at McKenzie’s Barbeque & Burgers.
“After I retired, I felt like I needed to do something,” Naeger said. “This has really filled the void. I really enjoy the work that I do, to be able to take waste food from restaurants and stores and share that with the community. This has really fulfilled that need.”
The organization approached the owners at McKenzie’s a few years ago about collaborating and Colin McKenzie said it was a no-brainer.
“Obviously, being in the restaurant business we want to avoid waste, but there’s always going to be some kind of waste, so how do we get rid of it in a productive way,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says over one-third of all available food goes uneaten in the United States.
Feeding America says 70,560 people in Montgomery County experience food insecurity, about 12% of the county, according to a 2019 dataset.
The organization defines food insecurity as a “lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.”
“We don’t see it as a food availability problem. We see it as a food distribution problem,” Nelson said. “We started out picking out approximately 20,000 pounds for the year in 2015. Now in 2022, we’re picking up 120,000 pounds per month.”