- Rebecca Flach
Hunger and food waste: Helping Harvest fights both
Forty-two million Americans experienced food insecurity in the US due to the pandemic according to Feeding America. Hunger in the US was a troubling issue long before COVID-19 though; in 2019 35 million Americans worried where their next meal would come from.
Paradoxically, year after year 30 to 40% of food in the United States goes to waste. How is it possible we have so many hungry people, but have this much wasted food?
There are many reasons for this complicated and confounding issue, including over production, spoilage between production and retail and Americans' preference for blemish free fruits, vegetables and other foods. You can learn more here.
Today is Stop Food Waste Day and Helping Harvest is proud to play a small role in the reduction of food waste in our area. We're a licensed salvager in New York State. This means we can accept damaged food products and glean the edible portions for human consumption before responsibly disposing of the rest.
In our case, we accept damaged food from a local grocery distributor. During shipping from the manufacturer or in movement around the distribution center products get damaged. Perhaps a box was dropped coming off a truck or maybe a forklift driver accidentally punctured a pallet of food. Traditional grocery stores typically don't want the
these scratch and dent items, but they are right up our alley! We buy these items at low salvage rates by the bin, sort them and get them on our shelves for families who count on us.
Helping Harvest also accepts foods that are close to best buy dates that other grocery stores don't want. We follow USDA guidelines on how long we can keep these goods on the shelves. In developed nations like the US, we often throw out perfectly good food simply because of date stamps. In fact, according to the National Resource Defense Council in this article by Consumer Reports, more than 90% of Americans misinterpret dates on food labels. You can learn more about date labeling on food products here.
Once the Helping Harvest team has gleaned what we can from salvage goods we send the rest to a local farmer who feeds it to his animals.
If it wasn't for Helping Harvest and other food rescue organizations locally and across the US, most of the food referenced above would have been headed for the landfill. We're attempting to do our part to make better use of potential food waste. On this Stop Food Waste Day what steps can you take a prevent tossing good food in the trash? Get some ideas here.