Meet Dan: A Volunteer at Work

Behind the wheel and behind the scenes with Dan Davis

Chances are that when you see the Franklin Food Pantry truck puttering around town, Dan Davis is behind the wheel. Three days a week, he and operations team member Suzanne Walsh pick up food from grocery partners Big Y, BJ’s and Stop & Shop, and deliver it to the Pantry. Dan plays a key role in making sure the Pantry shelves are stocked each day and ready to serve our clients.

But the man behind the wheel does a lot more behind the scenes. Someone who firmly believes in “waste not, want not,” Dan made it his personal mission to reduce the amount of wasted food at the Pantry. Although the pantry discourages donations of expired food, thousands of pounds of outdated products make their way through the door each year. The sheer volume creates a lot of extra work for volunteers because they check expiration dates on every item. And, inevitably, there’s a lot of food to dispose of.

dan-davis-at-workThe amount of waste disturbed Dan. So he did something about it. “When I first started, the policy was to throw out all food that had a “use by” date of more than a month ago, or a code instead of a date,” he said. “Many items with a code, but no date, looked pretty new. I also thought that many dated items were probably still good for much longer than a month.”

Dan contacts manufacturers for explanations of their codes, and researches “shelf-life past expiration date” to see what food items can be salvaged. “I’ve been able to save a lot of perfectly good donations from going to the dumpster, including many coded items that were still well within their “use by” dates,” said Dan.

Shortly after retiring as a technical writer from EMC, Dan began volunteering in the spring of 2012. He devotes nearly 10 hours a week to the Pantry. His yearly contribution of time is substantial, earning both Silver and Gold Presidential Service Awards in the past. His efforts have made a difference in many areas of the Pantry’s operations.

“Dan has made a huge impact on the Pantry,” says Erin Lynch, executive director.  “Even though we discourage donations of expired food because of the amount of resources required to process them, Dan has done a super job to reduce the amount of waste we produce. We are grateful for all he has done.”

And he’s done a lot. “My favorite part is that I am involved in more areas than what I came here to do,” he says. “I helped expand the produce area and got involved in design and placement of shelving. I facilitated the recycling of plastic food containers and shopping bags, and started composting our perishable waste.”

His mission to minimize waste extends beyond the Pantry walls. Dan literally brings his work home with him. He brings cans, boxes and bags of expired food home to compost or dispose of the contents, and then recycles the empty containers. “I always knew that I wanted to do something to give back to the community. I love the work and what I am helping to do,” he said.

And we do, too. Thank you, Dan.