The nonprofit diverts unused restaurant food to feed hungry families.

This monthly feature focuses on volunteer opportunities for Central Ohio families.

The food industry can be a wasteful business. The timeline for selling items is tight and a significant number of edible items end up in the trash.

Enter Food Rescue US Columbus. The organization, part of a national nonprofit, partners with almost 50 restaurants, grocers, caterers, farmers markets and the like that donate excess food to those in need. “We pick that up and we deliver it to different organizations,” said Columbus site director Susan Keiser-Smith. Recipients include low-income senior living facilities, food pantries and soup kitchens.

Volunteers make the magic happen by picking up and delivering the food. Children are welcome to accompany their parents. “You can do pretty much any of our routes with your family,” Keiser-Smith said.

“Food runners” use an app to check the schedule and choose a route. Food Rescue US Columbus has about 200 volunteers, 25 percent of whom are active at a given time. “There's no commitment,” Keiser-Smith said. Some people make a run on their way home from work, while others “adopt” a route.

Year-to-date through August, Keiser-Smith said, the Columbus site has “rescued” 992,004 pounds of food—an estimated 826,670 meals worth more than $1.7 million. Since launching in 2012, the group has delivered more than 6 million pounds of donated food locally.

“It's a good example for a parent to set for their child, just to be helping somebody,” Keiser-Smith said. “It also helps children realize the amount of food that's wasted.

“People probably aren't aware of the need, especially in the suburbs,” she said. “There's a need everywhere.”

For more information, go to foodrescue.us.