Operation Food Search (OFS), a non-profit hunger relief organization, recently revitalized its 11-year-old office recycling program into “Repurpose for a Purpose”. The two-part initiative—divided into “Metal for Meals” and “Furniture for Food”—removes scrap metal and excess furniture from businesses that are remodeling, relocating and closing. A portion of the proceeds benefits Operation Food Search in its quest to heal the region’s hunger.
Repurpose for a Purpose offers businesses affordable recycling solutions in order to avoid storage fees, as well as provides options to keep metal and furniture out of landfills. OFS has partnered with Becker Iron & Metal and Warehouse of Fixtures since the program’s inception. Both partners utilize their industry knowledge and logistics capabilities to create customized service for businesses of every size.
The program began in 2009 when businessman and OFS volunteer Skip Spielberg connected with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLC’s facilities manager Bonnie Wedel who had used furniture from nine floors of office space after a major renovation. “Instead of all of this furniture ending up in a landfill, the old metal file cabinets and anything else metal was melted down and the profits went to help feed those in need,” says Wedel. “This is one of the most incredible projects I have worked on in my career.”
OFS board member Skip Spielberg was named the project lead for the revived program. He has served as a volunteer at OFS for 20 years, first packing boxes of food and later joined the organization’s board of directors in 2007. Spielberg spent 50 years in the handbag industry and retired last year to focus on his charitable endeavors.
According to Becker Iron & Metal, the U.S. annually processes nearly 290 billion pounds of scrap material, which is the weight of more than 70 million cars. By using ferrous scrap rather than virgin materials in the production of iron and steel, CO2 emissions are reduced by 58 percent.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of furniture and furnishings taken to a landfill rose from 7.6 million tons in 2005 to 9.69 million tons in 2015, and the rate of increase is accelerating.
“Many businesses are either closing or downsizing their physical offices during the pandemic and shifting to a more virtual work environment, so there is a surplus of office furniture they need to get rid of and scrap metal that has to be removed,” said Operation Food Search Executive Director Kristen Wild. “We recreated Repurpose for a Purpose with the current climate in mind, particularly because this recycling program is the ultimate definition of sustainability and fully aligns with our mission to eliminate food insecurity.”
Founded in 1981, Operation Food Search (OFS) is a hunger relief organization located at 1644 Lotsie Blvd. that provides free food, nutrition education and innovative programs proven to reduce food insecurity. With a strategic focus aimed at ending childhood hunger, OFS empowers families and increases access to healthy and affordable food. The agency provides food and services to 200,000 individuals on a monthly basis – one-third of whom are children – through a network of 330 community partners in 27 Missouri and Illinois counties and the city of St. Louis. For more information, call (314) 726-5355 or visit Operation Food Search.