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Woman's mission to reduce waste turned into a three-decade-long food donation drive

She started from buying and distributing bread loaves and now runs an entire donation drive from her front porch.

Woman's mission to reduce waste turned into a three-decade-long food donation drive
Image Source: Getty Images/Peter Dazeley

While a few live in an abundance of resources, there are many who cannot even afford to eat all three meals in a day. There are several people fighting for rights to sustenance and some like Shauna Devenport are tackling the issue on a personal level. Shauna Devenport stumbled upon the world of disposable bread around 30 years ago, per The Washington Post. While collecting baked goods from a grocery store in Salt Lake City designated for a local food bank, a store employee brought to her attention the waste of hundreds of consumable bread loaves that were only a day or two past their expiration date. "I cried all the way home thinking of the waste," lamented Devenport. 

 

She then went back to the store and requested the bread that would otherwise be discarded, placing them on her front porch and inviting anyone in need to take as much as they required. She repeated this process and observed the overwhelming response: "I'd put it out and an hour or so later, it was gone... People would show up from all over. I saw there was a real need out there." The mother of four then approached her neighbors and asked them to assist her in collecting the store's surplus bread every day, and around twelve agreed to help. 

Shauna Devenport, also known as the "Bread Lady," has been providing free surplus groceries to people in need for nearly 30 years, and at 67 years old, she is still as determined as ever to continue her mission. Devenport's initiative began with a few loaves of bread, but it has since grown significantly. She says, "When somebody tells you, 'My kitchen cabinets were empty, and now I can feed my family,' that's life-changing. That's when I know I have to keep going." 

 

Kate Nielsen, Devenport's daughter, describes her work as "a labor of love" and explains that her mother's commitment to the cause has inspired multiple generations to show up for groceries. Nielsen also notes that her mother has faced health issues over the years but nothing that has deterred her from her work on the porch. Despite the heartbreaking reality that many people require assistance, Devenport's generosity is met with gratitude. Nielsen affirms, "Over the years, she has fed thousands and thousands." 

According to Shauna Devenport, who retired as an airline baggage handler, about 40% of the U.S. food supply is wasted annually, despite 1 in 10 Americans living in food-insecure households, as reported by a 2021 U.S. Department of Agriculture study. What started as Devenport's runs to a nearby grocery store to pick up expired bread in the 1990s eventually expanded to encompass a variety of food items that were being thrown away, such as blemished produce, deli items, canned goods, and even caviar and muscle-building drinks on occasion. Devenport explained that grocery stores often refuse to sell items that are beyond their "sell-by" dates, even though they may still be safe to consume.

 



 

She added, "I've never heard of anyone getting sick from something they've taken from the porch." As Devenport unloads perishables from her van, people often wait to take them, some only needing a package of rolls for dinner, while others arrive with wagons and carts to gather enough food to last for a week. Devenport doesn't question anyone, nor does she ask for names or incomes. Her philosophy has always been that everyone is welcome, and she sees a lot of working poor people among those who need her food. With the cost of groceries rising, many people have told her that they wouldn't be able to feed their families if they couldn't come to her porch.

 

Devenport believes in the importance of minimizing waste and making sure that perfectly good food can help feed those in need. As she explained, "The idea is that nothing should be wasted. This is perfectly good food that can feed hundreds of people every month." Devenport's generosity is even more remarkable when you consider that she and her husband, Jeff Devenport, were once in need of the very items they now provide to others. In addition to food, their front porch has become a hub for donations of shoes, clothing, and furniture from neighbors and others who know that people in need will visit the porch. 

Although Devenport is not able to collect as many donations as before, she remains determined to continue for as long as possible. She had to take a break from her work when she underwent surgery on her hip and shoulder. However, as she was recuperating, she made it her goal to resume stocking her porch with surplus food. "It started with a few loaves of bread, but it's now much more than that," Devenport said. "When somebody tells you, 'My kitchen cabinets were empty and now I can feed my family,' that's life-changing. That's when I know I have to keep going." 

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