Five years ago in Milwaukee, Chris Capper met the head of Saz’s Catering and together they launched a "food rescue program" to feed the hungry.
Saz's serves up a lot of food at Summerfest and this year, whatever doesn't sell will go to Just One More Ministry.
Chris Capper's mission began small. He started off delivering extra bread from his church, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran, to shelters and pantries in Milwaukee’s central city.
One day, Capper’s pastor called him, after learning about a mountain of catered food served at St. Matthew's that was about to be tossed.
“So he called me and said, there must be food for 100 people," Capper says. "It turned out to be Saz’s. I called [the guy who runs the catering division] that afternoon; that was a Wednesday. Friday, I went to see him. From that Friday on, we’ve gotten all the food that Saz’s otherwise throws away."
These days on Monday and Friday mornings, Capper can be found inside one of Saz’s walk-in coolers. Carts labeled 'church' are set aside for the Capper’s group.
On the day WUWM met up with him, two coolers awaited him – each holding stacks of trays filled with pretty-delicious looking items - salmon and asparagus.
The Saz’s team was busy with Summerfest prep. Whatever isn't sold at Summerfest will be trucked back here to the cooler. Capper wasn’t sure how much extra food for the hungry that would mean, but he’s prepared for anything.
“If they call at 9 in the morning and say Chris, 'we need you here before noon'; then we’re here before noon. Doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we come,” Capper says.
Capper says whatever is donated, the aim is to provide people with balanced, nutritious meals.
“We give them a vegetable, a starch and a meat. And along with that we add some bread, produce and dessert,” Capper says.
Last February, the operation shifted from the hub it had outgrown in Wauwatosa and moved to a large church on 19th and Wisconsin.
"People will come to Wisconsin Avenue; that’s neutral territory," Capper says.
A month after the move, a crew installed a commercial size walk-in cooler and freezer.
In 2013, Just One More Ministry rescued enough food from caterers and stores to serve 1,700 meals per week. Capper dreams of doubling that number.
Volunteer Mark Petersen pieces together meal provisions to nearly 20 partnering congregations and ministries. He says some take heat-and-serve foods, while a few have cooks who start from scratch.
“Here at Redeemer, they serve five days a week and I put together meals for them and their chef Amari Jones, he can handle anything," Petersen says. "I’ve given him 10 pounds of tofu and the people that he serves here think it’s great.”
Pastor Donna Brown’s church is located nine blocks away. She’s picking up ingredients for its Wednesday supper for 100, along with a stack of frozen meals to feed 15 families.
Brown says her congregation feels good about being part of this program.
“We’re rescuing food. We’re very conscious of the waste in our culture and society and so our congregation are very glad to be part of,” Brown says.
Chris Capper marvels at the scene before him. He doesn’t try to hide the fact that, until eight years ago, his life was very different. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and spent time in the House of Correction.
“All the people know my story." Capper says. "All the volunteers know I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict but they have enough faith in me that they still come. They all open their hearts."
The 65 year old doesn’t plan to slow down. He hopes to build on his Summerfest connection by approaching all its food vendors.
Capper has also reached out to the State Fair.
“I met with the gentleman two months ago and he said, 'I’ll call you, but you can take all the extra cream puffs; you might have to come at 5 in the morning, because they start production for the day,'" he says. "So we’ll go at 5 in the morning and pick the cream puffs up, if they have them. We’ll just go, that’s what we do."