National Network of Food Banks Plans to Increase Engagement with Agricultural Industry To Distribute More Fresh Produce to Low-Income Americans
Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, held its inaugural Fresh Produce Summit. The meeting brought together produce industry leaders and representatives from 80 food banks to discuss ways to work together to access and distribute significantly more fresh produce to the 46 million people served by Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks. The summit was held in Tampa, Florida from March 6 to 8, 2016.
Those attending the summit shared best practices, success stories, challenges and learnings with one another. Much of the discussion focused on creating new models for Feeding America food banks to work collaboratively with one another to procure, process and distribute millions of pounds of produce.
As Feeding America engages donors across the food industry on collaborative ways to reduce food waste, produce is a key part of that effort. In fiscal year 2015, Feeding America recovered more than 2.6 billion pounds of food from the retail, food manufacturing, food service and agricultural industries that would otherwise have gone to waste. In addition, Feeding America distributed more than 1 billion pounds of fresh produce through 60,000 food pantries, meal programs and other charitable agencies. Fruits and vegetables are donated to food banks by produce growers, food wholesalers, food retailers and Federal commodity programs.
The organization has set a bold ten-year goal to provide access to enough nutritious food for everyone struggling with hunger and provide food security for the people we serve to help them stabilize their lives. This goal calls for a total of 1.7 billion pounds of food to come from produce growers, who now contribute less than half that amount at 685 million pounds last year.
“We should approach this work from the perspective of abundance, not scarcity. It is a huge opportunity for our network. It is also appropriate that we are having this conversation about procuring significantly more fruits and vegetables at this time, as March is National Nutrition Month,” said Bill Thomas, Chief Supply Chain Officer of Feeding America. “We have made tremendous strides in increasing our distribution of produce in the past ten years, but we estimate that there is still an additional 6 billion pounds of consumable produce that goes to waste in this country each year, so there is much more work to do.”
Feeding America’s expanded commitment to fresh produce comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced a goal of reducing US food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030. Feeding America is a proud endorser of this goal, and a founding partner in the USDA’s Food Waste Challenge. Finding collaborative solutions that will help food banks and the food industry identify donation opportunities, and scale promising programs, will play a key part in ongoing efforts to reduce the more than 70 billion pounds of nutritious food wasted in the United States each year.
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Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.