A New Life for Unwanted Pots and Pans

What are the odds that you have kitchen cabinets full of cookware, dishes, bowls, and multiples of basic food prep gadgets? About 100%, right?

“I’m sure you could fill a box now,” says Abbe Turner of Kent’s Lucky Penny Creamery.

While farmers markets across the region have gotten on board with two-for-one programs for food assistance recipients, and food banks have moved toward emphasizing fresh foods, individuals with limited income and those in unstable situations often choose fast food because they don’t have the tools to prepare and eat those veggies.

Turner is doing something about it. Her volunteer-run program Recycle Pots & Pans, which launched in 2011, wants the kitchen supplies you never use.

“Food banks are shifting their model to produce and perishable products,” she says. “They are doing a heroic job of providing food for families in need. But if that food is not able to be prepared when it lands in homes, it ends up as waste. Families who are transient or in crisis often don’t have equipment they need to make meals.”

The organization accepts clean, gently used equipment. Many of its donations come from people who are downsizing, cleaning out the home of a parent who has died or moved into assisted living, or just want to lighten their load. Graduating Kent State students are another source.

In five years, they’ve recycled more than 10 tons of cookware and other supplies—cleaning, sorting, and assembling into full sets of kitchen equipment, then sending it out through 20 nonprofits that serve populations such as immigrants, refugees, veterans, victims of domestic violence, survivors of human trafficking, and the homeless. In addition to Lucky Penny, Recycle Pots & Pans opened a location in Columbus in 2015.

Unfortunately, Abbe notes, demand is greater than the supply. “We need pots and pans, silverware. We desperately need industrial shelving,” she says.

“We all have a right to enjoy good food at the table with family and friends,” she says. “Food banks do a great job of providing the food, but we believe we’re solving a problem in the last mile that no one else is solving. We’re lucky to live in such a vibrant food community as we have in Cleveland, so this is our way of giving back.”

Find more information about the program at RecyclePotsAndPans.com