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.