Food pantries are an essential cog in the safety net machine – we donate to them, we volunteer to sort foods, we have canned drives in our businesses and schools. This is a good thing.
However, what happens next isn’t a thought for the majority of pantry supporters. What about the next step? Cooking and serving?
“Some families have no way of cooking or fixing their meals,” explained Anne Moffat while standing in front of a wall of kitchen gear that looks like a ten-family yard sale run amok. Moffat is the head volunteer at Recycled Pots & Pans and expertly surveys the array of mixers, crock pots, plate sets, bread pans, coffee cups, and more.
With no pans, it’s hard to make a hot meal. Or, perhaps there are no forks or bowls or plates in the home. What happens next?
Abbe Turner is what happens next. A few years ago, Turner was at a meeting during which people were talking about why families in need were not using produce. “I thought, what’s going on?” she said. Someone at the table quietly explained, “They don’t have pots and pans.”
“That kept me up at night,” she recalled. “Where my family connects is at a meal, it’s our only time together.” I laid in bed that night and cried over families that don’t have pots and pans, children who don’t know how to use a fork.”
And from that fitful sleep, the idea for Recycled Pots and Pans was dreamed up. A farmer, food activist, and producer, Turner knows her way around the food issues, but this new aspect of food insecurity was tugged on her heart and she shot into action. Hailing from Kent, Gerber started the non-profit on her home turf in 2012.
“I was driving around during the move-out at Kent, and I noticed all these sofas, lamps, boxes of books, and boxes of pans,” she said. She started collecting the used pots, pans, and other dining ephemera, and repurposing the materials. Not only does this help families in need, it also creates a landfill diversion. “Zero waste and helping families?” she asked rhetorically, acknowledging the no brainer with the arch of an eyebrow.
Down here in Columbus, The Commissary’s Kate Morrisey Djupe heard about Turner’s endeavor. “I heard about it, fell madly in love with it, and we frolicked in a field together,” Djupe laughed. “There were daises,” Turner added.
Recycled Pots and Pans started an outpost Columbus last December at The Commissary and to date has taken in over 4000 pounds of kitchen and service ware. “It succeeded behind our wildest expectations,” smiled Gerber. “We are helping people prepare and enjoy a meal – it’s gives people hope.”
The program turns over its wares to various organizations around the city to short up families in crisis, whether from homeless or abuse. “We see our program assisting at the last mile – food pantries are starting to focus on more fresh foods that need to be cooked, but if a family has no tools, the food gets wasted, then who have we served?” said Turner.
On April 29th, Recycled Pots & Pans is holding an event featuring a silent auction of nostalgic and vintage pieces to aid in the operating costs of the program. Go to thecommissary.com for information. Drop off pots, pans, and other kitchen bits at The Commissary on Thursdays and Friday. Saturday drop offs take place the first Saturday of the month. •