Have you ever volunteered at your local food bank? If so, then you might already know the goal: If we all work together and share what we have, we can support those who are not able to afford food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and communities are working extra hard to make sure that locals receive supplies and food, but did you know that farmers in the US are facing the exact opposite problem?
Let’s take a step back. Recently, stores, restaurants, schools, and hotels closed their doors in compliance with the shelter-in-place rule to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the widespread closures, have you noticed how your eating habits have changed? Like most of us, you’re probably eating at home more than ever before, and while this is probably healthier for your diet, it poses a unique problem for many farmers. Have you wondered what’s happening with the thousands of gallons of milk that are used to make coffee beverages, or the hundreds of pounds of potatoes used to make french fries, to name just a couple of examples? When restaurants, schools, and hotels close, farmers are left with excess fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that they cannot easily sell. The millions of families at home don’t collectively eat the same amounts of produce and dairy products that restaurants and hotels use. Some farmers are now selling their goods to supermarkets instead of restaurants and hotels, but that involves significantly changing the delivery process (Should farmers package carrots into smaller bags? Should cheese be packaged into smaller boxes?). Some farmers are helping move their supplies by donating to food banks, but even so, many farmers still have excess produce and dairy products.
As always, people are coming up with creative ideas to solve this problem. Some organizations are making it easier for farmers to distribute their fruits, vegetables, and milk to those in need. And restaurants in cities like San Francisco and Dallas are packaging dinner kits with recipes that include farmers’ supplies so that people can support their favorite restaurants while ensuring that produce isn’t wasted!
What ideas do you have to prevent food from going to waste?