Banking on Waste

I went to a meeting of the Food Diversion Task Force yesterday and left thinking about food banks. A representative from the local food bank told the group how donations are down significantly.

As food prices rise and manufacturers consolidate, there is more emphasis placed on reducing “shrink,” or product that they can’t market. While food manufacturers may waste less food (yay!*) as smaller operations are bought out by larger corporations keen on efficiency, it just makes food banks work harder.

And the rise of the secondary food market–dollar stores, Big Lots, etc. that take foods with dated packaging and food closer to its sell-by-date–has cut into a traditional food bank donation stream.

Meanwhile, food banks’ recent emphasis on nutrition–a noble goal–hasn’t made their task easier. Around here, there’s a lot less produce to donate thanks to the drought. And a move toward perishable food (and away from canned goods) leads to higher operating costs because they must recover that food in refrigerated trucks. You think your gas bills are high? Try driving around with a heavy load kept under 40 degrees!

All that means harder times for food banks. Which makes me think it’s a good time to make a donation of time, food or money to your local food bank.

* Not to say that food waste overall is decreasing. If anything, it’s on the rise as supermarkets offer more prepared food (of which a large amount is tossed) and more Americans eat out (where there’s more plate waste and less saving of leftovers).

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