As we approach World Food Day — this year held on October 16 — I’m struck by how this global day of observance has a new meaning for me. Two things are different for me because of my daily work in product sourcing at Feeding America. First, I now know that for 42 million Americans, feeding their families is a daily challenge and food is never taken for granted. And second, that so much of the food produced in the U.S. is not being eaten but rather goes to waste for reasons that can be addressed.
When 40 percent of food is wasted and so many of our neighbors face hunger, something needs to change.
For over 35 years, the Feeding America network of food banks has rescued food from going to waste so that it can, instead, feed people. In fact, over 2.6 billion pounds of safe, delicious food was rescued just last year from donations throughout the food industry and redirected to food banks to better serve their communities. But our efforts are not enough. So we are redoubling our partnership with stakeholders across the U.S. government and private sector to do more.
Recently, Feeding America hosted the second Annual Food Rescue Summit in Washington, D.C., so that the larger U.S. food rescue community could come together and combine forces in our shared mission to ensure food feeds people and doesn’t go to waste. Over the course of the two-day event, over 100 attendees representing dozens of food rescue organizations, industry partners, government agencies and other stakeholders in food rescue shared best practices, brainstormed collaborative opportunities for greater impact and committed to working together.
A Summit highlight was the inspirational words of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as he thanked Feeding America for our partnership over the years in working to help address hunger in America, and emphasized the responsibility we all have to play a part in rescuing food from going to waste. He also highlighted the progress the USDA has made during his administration to change restrictive policies which now allow the donation of safe product that had previously been landfilled. Secretary Vilsack further mentioned the work that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service initiated with Feeding America in piloting, proving and implementing broad-scale change to ensure the ultimate safety of the product provided to recipient families.
Secretary Vilsack may have limited time left in office, but he has an unlimited passion for the dual mission of reducing the amount of food sent to landfills and ensuring that it is redirected safely to help end hunger. He is committed to ensuring that the career staff at the USDA will continue their work in this critical area with the next administration.
Secretary Vilsack’s remarks underscored the intertwining relationship between food waste and the environment. As the climate changes, agriculture and food production need to change as well. And as populations grows domestically and globally, efforts to feed people struggling with hunger must escalate to meet the growing demand.
Ultimately, the Summit provided a reminder of the value of the work being done to rescue food from all points in the supply chain and the need to do even more. While rescuing food from going to waste helps the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfill, it also provides immeasurable benefits to everyone that the hunger-relief community serve. To the single mom who turns to a women’s shelter to protect her children, to the father who gains sole-custody of his son, to the retired school teacher who struggles with medical bills, this food provides not only nutrition, it provides hope.
World Food Day, for me, is now a day of hope. Hope that one day through our collective efforts, the abundant resources of this planet will nourish families today and for generations to come.
*Karen Hanner is the managing director of manufacturing partnerships at Feeding America.Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , We Feed Families