While this is a horrifying statistic, the amount of edible food that goes from our plates to the local dump is relatively insignificant compared to the amount of edible food that American farmers leave in the field each season. Normally, only cosmetically perfect produce is harvested. ‘Second tier produce’, or produce that’s too large, too small, oddly shaped, or off color, is generally left to rot.
Santa Clara University’s Food and Agribusiness Institute (SCU’s FAI) recently released a study that indicates 70% of romaine lettuce by weight is left behind in farmers' fields after harvesting the hearts. While romaine lettuce was the least-efficiently harvested crop in the study, significant amounts of other crops were not harvested due to minor imperfections, including 50% of strawberries, 45% of cauliflower, 44% of tomatoes, 37% of cantaloupes, and more. This absurd amount of food waste is particularly difficult to swallow considering that one in every five American children suffers from food insecurity (i.e. going at least one day a month without something to eat).
One way to rectify this is to connect the dots between big business, research institutes, and local nonprofits. For example, to facilitate the study mentioned above, SCU’s FAI sought sponsorship from Bank of America, receiving $100,000 to conduct their research. All ‘second tier produce’ weighed by the research team was subsequently donated to Second Harvest Food Bank and distributed throughout the greater San Jose, CA area.
As someone who has personally experienced food insecurity, and a member of SCU’s FAI Community Outreach Team, I know it is critical to establish similar programs within your local community. We were able to generate over one million healthy meals with only ⅓ of Bank of America’s sponsorship money! Imagine the impact programs like this could have if more people decided to address food insecurity immediately?
Bright Funds makes it easy to have an immediate and lasting impact on issues like this. You can donate directly to Mark’s Food Insecurity Fund, which includes four innovative nonprofits located in Portland, St. Louis, Denver, and San Jose. For more information on Mark’s Food Insecurity Fund or general Bright Funds details, please email us at info@BrightFunds.org.