Back in 2007 a change occurred in the restaurant and hospitality industry. We as consumers started to ask for, nay, demand to know that our food was being sustainably produced. We wanted locally grown, organic, simple food. We wanted food that told the story of the land we were traveling, living on or visiting. The trend of Farm to Table, became a standard.
Ten years later I find myself asking… is it enough? What we’ve done in eco-sustainable cuisine over the last ten years has certainly made an impact for the better in the lives of diners across the nation. I wonder though, have we become so washed in the farm to table movement that we believe because something says natural, organic, or local we can stop there and feel a high sense of food justice? Or are we still congratulating ourselves on a choice we made a decade ago - how have we grown?
When we think of waste, we picture the post dining experience at restaurants where trash bins full of half eaten scraps are tossed out in heavy black plastic bags. Or grocery stores who due to the ineffectiveness and confusing “sell by” date labeling are forced to toss perfectly good food due to lack of consumer education on the sell by vs expires by date. We have an opportunity now to look at waste from the root, (literally the root! A root that’s still in the ground attached to a nutritious piece of produce that will never be served), and make the next wave of huge impact, food justice.
600 million pounds of food go to waste each year, while 1 in 5 Americans are food insecure. Produce that is perfectly good to eat – but because of surplus production, or aesthetic imperfections, and sometimes even cost of labor to harvest - it’s left in the field, reduced to compost feed for animals, or worse – tossed into a landfill. This is not only costly to the environment, but keeps farmers impoverished as they watch 40% of their yield be lost. Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmer’s Union said that "Knowing someone went to bed hungry, makes me feel I failed that day as a farmer".
At Hungry Harvest we are using one problem to solve another. We get calls daily from farmers, and logistics companies who for one reason or another cannot connect food to hungry people. We buy their surplus and imperfect produce at a fair rate, and box it up in mixed harvests that are delivered weekly to our subscribers starting at just $15 for around 9lbs of fresh fruits and vegetables (currently serving Philly to Northern Virginia). For every box we sell we donate 2lbs to a local hunger relief partner. To date we've rescued 2 million pounds of produce, while donating 400 thousand pounds more. Through the direct support of our subscribers, we also self-fund farmers market style subsidized produce pickup sites in the most undeserved communities of Baltimore, with plans to expand those farmers markets into Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia in the next 18 months.
The hospitality industry has an opportunity to join us, and go from status quo sustainable – to truly remarkable in their impact on the food supply chain, farmers value, solving hunger, and ending food waste. We are looking for a few leaders in the field to join us in the fight against root cause food waste, and give harvest seconds a second chance.
Will you help end food waste and hunger with us, and usher in a new standard for food justice and culinary responsibility?