Trumbull restaurants help provide food for those in need

TRUMBULL — Melissa Cotto grew up believing that it's important to give back.

 Cotto co-owns Marianna's Pantry, 6528 Main St. in Trumbull with her sister, Marina DeCarli. She said their mother was a nurse and they grew up with the idea that everyone should do their part to help others.

"It’s always important (to give back)," Cotto said. "My parents were always doing for others."

That spirit of giving is part of what drove the sisters to sign Marianna's Pantry up to donate the restaurant's leftover food to Food Rescue U.S. - Fairfield County. The organization is part of a national nonprofit that collects fresh, edible food that would have otherwise gone to waste from restaurants, grocers, and other food establishments and distributes it to local social service agencies.

In 2022, the local organization moved 4.45 million pounds of food from the waste stream. The agency made 40 rescues a day, for an average of 280 a week. The organization has about 100 food donors that contribute to roughly 200 social service agencies.

In addition to Marianna's, local establishments that donate to Food Rescue include the Bruegger's Bagels in Trumbull, Bridgeport Hospital, and multiple locations of Stop & Shop and Starbucks.

Food Rescue U.S. - Fairfield County co-site director Haley Schulman said the program is "dedicated to increasing food access and decreasing the impact food waste has on climate change."

She said the need for donors is particularly great now, as the price of groceries has jumped 12 percent in the past year.

Marianna's is one of the most recent additions to the local program's list of donors, and Cotto said, at first, she wasn't sure how much the restaurant would have to contribute. 

"I don’t really have a lot of waste," she said. "We utilize everything."

For instance, Cotto said, unsold bread is often used to make bread crumbs that are used in other dishes.

But, she realized, there is always something to give, and, for the past few weeks, the restaurant has been giving unsold soups, breads (the ones that aren't needed for bread crumbs) and other items to Food Rescue. Much of what they're donating has gone to the Trumbull Food Bank.

Schulman said the arrangement with Marianna's is a particular win for Food Rescue U.S.

"We were able to connect that food from a community-minded business owner to a Trumbull nonprofit," she said.

For Cotto, it's rewarding to help feed others in her community.

"It’s just nice," she said. "It’s something we can feel good about."

To learn how to donate to Food Rescue Us, or for more information, visit https://foodrescue.us/site/food-rescue-us-fairfield-county/.