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Extra! Extra Samples Feed Families in Need!

“Thank you for the generous donations of produce that you have given to assist us with our outreach mission. With your help we are able to provide food for needy senior citizens,” said Denise Smartt Sears from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Rochelle, NY.

“Thank you for the generous donations of produce that you have given to assist us with our outreach mission. With your help we are able to provide food for needy senior citizens,” said Denise Smartt Sears from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Rochelle, NY.

It is a simple idea. If you have more than you need, share with those who don’t have enough.  An estimated 50 million Americans do not have access to enough food. So what can be done? Amazing things can happen when you implement a simple idea by combining a love of agriculture and commitment to community with a government program.

For over 10 years, samplers working for the Pesticide Data Program, a part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, have been donating excess food from their samples to local organizations including food banks, homeless shelters, senior citizens centers, battered women shelters, and churches.  The Program requires samples of fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products at markets and chain store distribution centers throughout the country for testing and analysis of pesticide residues on agricultural commodities in the U.S. food supply.

The packaging size of products they sample is sometimes more than what they need to do their testing. Donating the excess product was a simple idea and a rewarding way to reduce food loss and waste.

Most organizations that help feed the public rely almost exclusively on canned or dried goods, so when these samplers donate fresh produce it may be the only supply of fresh fruit or vegetables available to recipients. Samplers in California, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin all donate excess samples to local charities and often hear comments like, “We really appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

Last year, the food donations from this effort in Michigan alone reached almost 18,000 pounds!

This is just one example of how Federal employees are participating in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, sponsored by USDA in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Challenge invites producer groups, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities, and other government agencies to join us in our efforts to help reduce, recover, or recycle food waste in the United States.

When food is collected for sample testing, like the bananas shown here, the package often contains more than what is needed to do the tests.   USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) donates the extra food to area food banks.

When food is collected for sample testing, like the bananas shown here, the package often contains more than what is needed to do the tests. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) donates the extra food to area food banks.

One Response to “Extra! Extra Samples Feed Families in Need!”

  1. Danny Woerner says:

    I have worked for USDA FSIS as a Food Inspector, Food Technologist, & Consumer Safety Inspector in Texas for over 34 years working 147 different federal plants. In short, there is too much waste of edible food protein in many federally inspected plants where the plants simply self-condemn wholesome food such as chicken necks, livers, gizzards, & hearts to the tune of over 100,000# per day! Note: each wasted giblet set (neck, liver, heart, gizzard) weighs at least 8 ounces and an average sized plant slaughters 200,000 birds a day. These plants should be given incentives to salvages this edible food and distribute it all to the hungry around the world. Many poultry plants do not salvage the edible by-products or edible offal when they are only interested in the skeleton muscle – meat of the birds. They cut the neck and entire viscera off and let it go down the drain. Many plants slaughter a half a million birds a day so you can see how much waste this involves. Plants claim the labor is too much to salvage this edible food and no one wants the “A Grade bird with giblets” anymore.

    Maybe these plants could get tax breaks or incentives to save all this food for distribution. Maybe the food banks or world services organizations could come in and salvage the neck & giblets. A billion plus pounds dumped every day of edible food in the chicken plants alone! Similar issues we can discuss in beef, pork, turkey plants if we can talk or if you want more information on this. I believe that if the meat, poultry, and egg industries knew they could salvage this wholesome food, they would be happy to help out if the incentives were there for them. If somehow we could save this food, it would amount to millions of pounds a day for food banks, etc.

    There are many other similar issues of food waste that could be addressed to feed hungry people worldwide.

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