According to the USDA, approximately 133 billion pounds of food—close to 40% of food in the United States—is wasted each year, while millions continue to go hungry. For one food bank in Louisiana, asking, ‘what would happen if nutritious food was rescued and shared rather than dumped into overflowing landfills?’ has led to so much more than just less waste.
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is committed to decreasing food waste across 23 parishes (counties) by working with local farms, community gardens, grocery stores and other businesses to rescue an average of 8.9 tons of food every day. They work closely with farmers to make getting fresh fruits, vegetables and grains onto the tables of their neighbors not only possible, but practical.
Growers—from large scale operations to backyard gardeners—can donate excess produce to Second Harvest, reducing costs for storage, transportation and disposal all while decreasing waste and increasing sustainability. Second Harvest supplies boxes, pallets, transportation, and even volunteers to help with the harvesting! To meet the high demand for fresh produce, Second Harvest encourages farmers to plant produce specifically for donation—even offering a small payment per pound to farmers to offset the costs of seeds, water and fertilizer.
In partnership with 200 community food providers, Second Harvest is a lifeline to nutritious food for over 60,000 people in the Greater New Orleans area each month. But getting fresh produce distributed on such a large scale is not easy. Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and lean proteins are essential to a balanced diet, and yet they are the most expensive and can spoil quickly. These nutritious foods are hard for local food pantries to source and store; therefore, these popular items are often the most difficult for hungry people to access. In 2010, Second Harvest moved to more than 100,000 square-foot facility to quadruple their cold storage and significantly increased the amount of fresh food they can rescue and receive. Now, they work with their local pantry partners to distribute perishable foods on a timetable that allows less well-equipped agencies to share healthy options with the families and communities who need them most.
Second Harvest is playing a critical role in changing the way we think about sourcing and providing food to communities in need and making sure our best foods aren’t going to waste. Moving beyond just boxes and cans, they’re making it possible for low-income families to enjoy the healthy produce and foods they need to grow, learn and thrive, all while helping businesses increase their sustainability and supporting local farmers!
Check out their website to learn more about the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.
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