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Posts tagged: food banks

Tapping into the Economic Potential of Local Food Through Local Foods, Local Places

Federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market

In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market. This partnership was made possible by Local Foods, Local Places which helps communities integrate local food enterprises into their economic plans.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

At USDA, we understand the enormous market potential of local food. Industry estimates suggest that local food sales in America have nearly doubled in recent years, jumping from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. We’ve invested more than $800 million in 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses tap into that market.

Indeed, local food is a national phenomenon that has significant impact on every state’s economy. But local food is not only a business opportunity for agriculture, it can also be a development tool that allows communities to maximize the impact of what is grown and made locally. Local food projects can help grow local food economies and drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization, which is what the Administration’s Local Foods, Local Places initiative is all about. And this year, the initiative is particularly focused on ensuring that kids and families in need have an opportunity to benefit from the development of local food systems. This initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Read more »

USDA Federal Marketing Orders Help Reduce Food Waste

Oranges at the Seald Sweet processing plant in Vero Beach, Florida

When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns. USDA photo courtesy of Ken Hammond.

USDA’s Food Waste Challenge is underway and federal marketing orders for fruits and vegetables continue to help out in the food donation effort. Under these industry self-help programs that are overseen by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), groups decide minimum quality standards that benefit the entire industry. When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns.

When this occurs, businesses have a couple of options: send the food to the processed market, donate the food to charities and food banks, or process the food into livestock feed. Nearly half of the active fruit and vegetable marketing orders also include comparable import regulations to ensure foreign products meet the same quality standards as those produced domestically. Read more »

The U.S. Food Waste Challenge at 4,000

Four-thousand and counting! 4,024 to be exact. That is the number of participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge at the end of April, 2015.

These participants– businesses, schools and organizations from across the country— are working to reduce food loss and waste in their operations.  And, they have taken the time to join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge by sharing their activities on the USDA Food Waste Challenge website or working with EPA experts to measure their food waste reductions through the Food Recovery Challenge. Read more »

Farmers Help Fight Food Waste by Donating Wholesome Food

Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation farmer, grows 51 acres of onions.  He donates excess onions that would otherwise go to waste to a food rescue organization and gets a reimbursement for his efforts.

Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation farmer, grows 51 acres of onions. He donates excess onions that would otherwise go to waste to a food rescue organization and gets a reimbursement for his efforts.

Sometimes Mother Nature and hard work come together to produce a bountiful harvest on the farm.  But what if the grocery store, distributor, or processor that the farmer sells to can’t handle any excess?  Or, what if a percentage of the crop turns out too big, too small, or oddly shaped and no one will buy it?  Organizations across the country are working with farmers to get this wholesome produce to people who need it.

Many farms may want to donate directly to a food bank, but are discouraged because they currently can’t claim a tax deduction for the donations. To help farms offset the costs of the labor required to harvest the crop and the packaging to transport it, many food banks and food recovery groups are able to assist the farmer with the “pick and pack out” (PPO) cost.  The PPO cost can be very beneficial to a farmer.  Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski farms in Goshen, New York, donates his nutritious-but-undersized onions to City Harvest.  City Harvest is a food rescue organization in New York City that has been connecting good, surplus food with hungry New Yorkers since 1982.  The PPO cost that is paid to Pawelski by City Harvest in some years was the determining factor in keeping his farm from losing money. Read more »

New York’s City Harvest Wins U.S. Food Waste Challenge Competition

City Harvest rescues excess food using a fleet of 19 refrigerated trucks, three cargo bikes, over 150 full-time employees, and more than 8,000 volunteers. In fiscal year 2015, they will collect 50 million pounds of food, greater than the total amount of food collected in its first 14 years combined. Seventy-five percent of this total will be comprised of nutrient dense foods, including fresh produce, meat and dairy. Photo courtesy of City Harvest.

City Harvest rescues excess food using a fleet of 19 refrigerated trucks, three cargo bikes, over 150 full-time employees, and more than 8,000 volunteers. In fiscal year 2015, they will collect 50 million pounds of food, greater than the total amount of food collected in its first 14 years combined. Seventy-five percent of this total will be comprised of nutrient dense foods, including fresh produce, meat and dairy. Photo courtesy of City Harvest.

Beginning in August, food banks across the country competed to see who could sign up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.  From among the 200 food banks in the Feeding America network, the champion is City Harvest in New York City, which won by signing up 114 donors to the Challenge.  City Harvest will have a private meeting with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and will be awarded six suite tickets to attend either an NBA or NHL game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  The tickets were donated by Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE), owner of the Washington Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and Verizon Center.  Since 2011, MSE has recovered and donated 7,377 pounds of wholesome unsold food from its events to D.C. Central Kitchen, which translates to approximately 5,600 meals.

“We appreciate City Harvest’s longstanding commitment to food rescue and congratulate them for signing up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge,” said Secretary Vilsack.  “The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste. Organizations like City Harvest get this food to people who need it while reducing the amount of food that ends up in our country’s landfills.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Celebrating Our Nation’s Agricultural Abundance this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and the abundance of food we are able to share with our friends and family. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to thank the farmers and ranchers who make our nation’s agricultural abundance possible. Without them, the safe, abundant and affordable food we’ll put on our tables at Thanksgiving would not be possible.

At the same time, this Thanksgiving, it is important to remember those less fortunate. Many people will donate time, food or other resources to a food bank to brighten the holiday for families in their communities, and I am proud to say that many USDA employees are among them. I am also proud that through our People’s Garden Initiative, we’ve been able to donate 3.9 million pounds of fresh produce to food banks across the country over the last few years. Read more »