More than 25 years ago, Helen Palit walked into her favorite eatery for a bite to eat. By the time she walked out, she had an idea that would eventually help millions of Americans in need. She learned that the restaurant was throwing away 30 gallons of cooked potatoes daily to create its popular potato skins appetizer. Knowing she could put that food to good use at the soup kitchen she managed in New Haven, Conn., she began collecting the potato pulp every night and using it to thicken the 1,000 bowls of soup she served her hungry guests each day. After other local restaurants began contributing their untouched leftovers, Palit had a gourmet soup kitchen filled with salads, meats, seafood and decadent desserts. “I looked all around the country and nobody had ever done anything like this. I was stunned,” recalls Palit.
After several stops in other U.S. cities to help implement similar collection programs, Palit moved to Los Angeles where she takes full advantage of the city’s love of lavish events. Her nonprofit group, Angel Harvest, collects unserved food from Hollywood movie premieres, awards shows, extravagant private parties, swanky restaurants and even the post-Oscars Governors Ball. Using refrigerated trucks, her staff works through the night to bring everything from filet mignon to smoked salmon canapés to 83 Los Angeles shelters.
“It’s the best food in the city,” says Palit of what’s donated. Under her guidance, Angel Harvest now delivers a whopping 1 million meals annually to L.A.’s hungry. And Palit isn’t done yet. “It’s only going to increase,” she says. “It’s my passion.”
For more information on Angel Harvest, go to angelharvest.org.
By Lizbeth Scordo, a food writer in Marina del Rey, Calif.