With the end of the semester approaching in 2018, Drexel University student Evan Ehlers found himself with enough credits for 50 meals on his student dining card and little time to use them.
Ehlers thought through how he could keep the meals from going to waste and decided to redeem his remaining meals, hop in his car and distribute food to those in need in Philadelphia.
That decision served as the catalyst for what would become Ehlers’ career and the launching point for Sharing Excess, a nonprofit with a mission to bridge the gap between excess and scarcity, after he received a glimpse into the struggles of food insecurity facing so many.
Ehlers leveraged his studies in entrepreneurship and some friends who worked at local grocery stores and retailers to continue growing his idea. When receiving a call from a friend that their employer had extra food to distribute before it expired, Ehlers would borrow his grandmother’s car and deliver the food to local shelters, which became a regular occurrence over his remaining years at Drexel.
By the time the pandemic hit in 2020, Sharing Excess was working with about 40 grocery stores and retailers that donated food, but the needs of the community were about to skyrocket.
A feature in The Philadelphia Inquirer helped spread the word of the vital work Sharing Excess was doing in the community, and soon the organization had more retailers and wholesalers reaching out to pitch in with food that would otherwise go to waste while they temporarily closed at the onset of the pandemic.
Sharing Excess was able to find a warehouse in West Philadelphia and WSFS assisted with the funding needed. The 2,500-sqaure-foot warehouse now serves as Sharing Excess’ home base, where they work with approximately 180 grocery stores, wholesalers, farmers and more to distribute excess food to the Philadelphia region.
“In addition, our operation in the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market enables us to take the surplus from all of the different vendors and distribute it to food banks,” said Ehlers. “It’s our largest and most impactful initiative and supplies a lot of donations for food banks.”
In 2022, Sharing Excess also partnered with WSFS for the Bank’s annual Food Drive, which helps raise thousands of pounds of food each year with the help of generosity from its Associates, Customers and Communities. Through December 31, 2022, WSFS banking office locations in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will serve as convenient locations to donate nonperishable items to support Sharing Excess and Sunday Breakfast Mission.
“We’re really honored to work with WSFS on their annual Food Drive, which allows us to broaden our reach to more people in need,” said Ehlers. “It is really broadening our reach of food rescue and distribution and helping to grow our footprint of donations.”
What started as a grassroots effort at Drexel has now grown into a larger movement that has seen hundreds of thousands fed thanks to Sharing Excess. The organization continues to find new avenues to rescue food – like handing out hundreds of thousands of free avocados at FDR Park in Philadelphia in October 2022 after a surplus in South America – as it expands its reach even further with the goal of scaling its model into other cities.
“With inflation over the past year reaching 40-year highs, many households have found their wallets stretched even thinner,” said Vernita L. Dorsey, Senior Vice President, Director of Community Strategy at WSFS Bank. “By working with our partners like Sharing Excess on our annual Food Drive and other initiatives, WSFS aims to make an impact in the fight against hunger.”
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