Bless you, John. God Speed.
John van Hengel, who founded what is widely regarded as the nation's first food bank in an abandoned Phoenix bakery in 1967 and helped cities around the world set up similar systems to feed the poor, has died. He was 83.
Van Hengel, who had Parkinson's disease and had suffered several strokes, died Wednesday in a Phoenix hospice care facility, according to an announcement from America's Second Harvest, a national hunger-relief organization that grew out of his efforts.
"We have lost a true American hero," Robert Forney, president of America's Second Harvest, said in a statement. "He created food banks because he realized that millions of pounds of nutritious food were being wasted at the same time that millions of Americans were going hungry."
The idea for creating a clearinghouse for unwanted food from grocery stores struck Van Hengel when a social worker introduced him to a mother of 10 whose husband was on death row.
Feeding her children was no problem because she shopped daily in refuse bins in back of a grocery store, she had said.
When Van Hengel checked the bins, he found food that was frozen but still edible, loose vegetables and stale bread. Inside the store, he found less-perishable castoffs, such as dented cans and bags leaking rice and sugar.
Within a year, a bakery near skid row that had been willed to St. Mary's Church became a place where trucks from several Arizona cities brought food that grocery companies could not sell.
Read John's full obituary at the Los Angeles Times
John Van Hengel set out to change his life and ended up changing the world
Remember John today....please donate a little money
to his little idea that makes such a difference.