The food recovery systems addressing food access hurdles in the pandemic
By Lindsey Danis
Food and beverage companies are among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Grocery stores, which can’t keep staples like flour or eggs on the shelves, are a rare bright spot. Restaurants have closed or offer takeout/delivery only. Farmers and food suppliers no longer have markets for their wares. Businesses have done what they can to pare costs, but many have stockpiled ingredients they can’t use or sell.
That doesn’t mean that food has to go to waste. Restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and other food and beverage companies that have surplus goods, can donate through food recovery apps that make donating surplus food as simple as a few clicks.
After volunteering with a food recovery system that used phone calls to pair donors with agencies in need, and observing frequent delays of 30 minutes or more as dispatchers called around to shelters to assess need. Software developer Tod Hing recognizes that the antiquated system was challenging and time-consuming for all parties.
So Hing created ChowMatch, a web-based and mobile application that uses proprietary matching algorithms to send food donated by restaurants, caterers, farms, grocery stores, and food businesses to local shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries, after volunteering.
Software like ChowMatch reduces delays in getting food to those in need; donors can request a pickup with a few clicks and volunteer food runners are notified of the need. Volunteers then transport food to donor agencies for seamless delivery.
Through FeedHV, a Hudson Valley food rescue network that uses ChowMatch software, Hudson, NY-based Hudson Valley Fish Farm, Inc, which farms steelhead trout for markets throughout the northeast, was able to donate 312 pounds of fresh whole fish to a local homeless shelter. Volunteers drove the donated food, and protected themselves from coronavirus using hand sanitizer produced by Hudson distillery Cooper’s Daughter, one of several area distilleries that pivoted to address a marketplace shortage of hand sanitizer.
Hudson Valley Fish Farm, Inc. President John Ng said, “Storage or value-adding wasn’t an appealing option, as we’re trying to reduce work to fight the spread of COVID-19. Add that to the fact that the immense loss of jobs meant so many more people are looking for support. While we are all self-isolating, we don’t want to forget that each of us is still a member of a community. Supporting our community has never been more important. ”
Providing for the community is equally important to Karianna Haasch, CEO and Lead baker at Kingston, NY’s Local Artisan Bakery. Haasch makes a habit of donating bakery leftovers at least once a month. “Everyone deserves proper nourishment, and it breaks my heart that we live in an age when hunger is a very real threat,” Haash says.
Donating leftover food is the easiest way to help address the need.
Witnessing the Covid-19 crisis unfold in upstate communities, Haasch says, “It hit me how many people are without the means to feed their families. We had to act and donate as much as we possibly could.”
While Local Artisan Bakery remains open for takeout or delivery six days a week, Haasch used FeedHV to donate 10 dozen baked goods, 10 pounds of potatoes, and 5 gallons of frozen berries to a Kingston-based food pantry that’s delivering meals to families in need as part of an emergency response to food insecurity under Covid-19. “I would typically wait until the end of the season to donate frozen food, once fresh local fruits become available again. Given the circumstances, it felt critical to donate now,” Haasch said.
While helping those in need is its own reward, donors play a role in reducing carbon emissions by diverting food that would otherwise be wasted from landfills. Globally, food waste has a carbon footprint of 3.3 tons, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports.
Furthermore, as Hing notes, businesses can write off donations on their taxes.
To learn more about food recovery and find solutions near you, visit https://www.foodrecoverynetwork.org.
If your business has surplus food as a result of closures and event cancellations, you can still create a positive impact for the community by donating that food to a local nonprofit organization in need. We’ve created a Food Recovery Guide which outlines four simple steps that businesses can take to donate surplus food to a local hunger-fighting nonprofit organization. Read the guide and take action to donate your surplus food to those in need.
To donate to Food Recovery Network visit www.foodrecoverynetwork.org/donate or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.