Local teen entrepreneur helps the hungry

Nate sits with his Prius full of of goods to deliver.

By Mia Kweskin, Parkway Central High School

If you happen to see a few cars pass by on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning, filled to the brim with boxes upon boxes of fresh food, it’s very possible that crammed amid the bagels, pastries and more is Whitfield High School junior Nate Noss.  At age 15, Nate founded St. Louis Food Rescue, an organization that collects unused food from grocery stores and restaurants every weekend and delivers it to various shelters.

“We estimate that we save more than 3,000 pounds each weekend,” Nate said.

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Nate was first introduced to the idea of community service, mitzvot, and the concept of hunger when he was 11 years old.  After receiving an e-mail from Congregation Kol Am asking for volunteers to help out at the St. Louis Jewish Food Pantry, Nate’s mother decided to volunteer him.

“I thought, ‘Cool, we’ll just put some cans in a box and give them to people.’ I don’t think I realized what I was doing back then,” Nate said.

He continued helping out at the Harvey 

Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. But after attending HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Program) and then WLC (World Leadership Conference) Nate learned to step out of the box with his ideas and he decided to go it on his own.  While bouncing off ideas with other participants at WLC, Nate was able to hear multiple inspiring speakers, including Jesse Jackson.

“I thought, if they did it, why can’t I?  Only good can come out if it.  I took a shot and I’m off to a fantastic start,” Nate said.

Nate and a group of about 10 regular volunteers spend every Saturday and Sunday morning and evening collecting what would have been wasted food from places such as Whole Foods, Costco, The Donut Palace and Einstein Bros Bagels.  After filling up their cars to the roof, they personally deliver the food to the Salvation Army Church and Community Center, the Salvation Army Family Haven, and the New Life Evangelistic Center for the homeless.

“We work some rough times like Saturday and Sunday nights.  Sometimes we have to put homework off until Monday morning but homework has to wait because there are people who are hungry,” Nate said.

Nate and his volunteers refuse to let food be wasted, even food that many would pass right by.  Last Halloween, Nate and his friend, Will Hopkins, secretary of St. Louis Food Rescue, came across a huge pumpkin patch with a sign that read, “Closing October 31 at 6 p.m.”  Realizing there was no way the more than 1,000 pumpkins left over would be sold in less than 24 hours, Will suggested the pair head over to the pumpkin patch.  Within 10 minutes of talking, the pair began filling cars and trucks with 1,500 pumpkins.  With the help of L’Ecole Culinaire, which opened its kitchens up for St. Louis Food Rescue, and a separate donation that paid for one-third of the necessary ingredients, Nate, Will, and many volunteers made about 4,000 meals using the pumpkins, and still have pumpkin puree left over for an estimated 10,000 more meals.

“We saw potential food in all the pumpkins.  People got fed.  Food was not wasted.  And that’s what we’re here to do,” Nate said.

They continue to fulfill the organization’s goal of saving food and feeding people in order to help the 15 percent of people in St. Louis who currently rely on food pantries and homeless shelters.  Now the organization is setting an additional goal: Continue to raise awareness.

“It’s rewarding to see how we’ve raised awareness.  One Sunday morning delivery, two passerbys said, ‘Oh, that’s a really good thing you’re doing.’  But it’s not that we’re doing a good thing; it’s that they understand that and then they’ll talk to their friends and maybe the word will spread and people will try to do more for the community,” Will said.

St. Louis Food Rescue’s target volunteer base is teenagers (mainly high schoolers) willing to use their own cars to pick up and deliver food on the weekends.

“I want other teenagers to grow a passion for helping people,” Nate said. 

“Our smiles and food on a Sunday night light up the place,” Will added.