The Wasteland

Posted by Philabundance on November 5th, 2010

96 billion pounds of food.

No, that’s not how much food was consumed at last year’s Philadelphia Wing Bowl― that’s how much food is wasted every year in the United States― enough food to feed every resident of Pennsylvania from now until 2018. Food waste accounts for over 2,000 trillion BTUs of energy consumption in the United States every year, or nearly the total energy consumption of the State of New Jersey (not including the oil consumption of the cast of Jersey Shore.)  In fact, just salvaging 1/5 of that wasted food would be enough to provide over three pounds of food to every “very food insecure” individual in the United States.

That’s where we come in.

When folks think of organizations like Philabundance, they think of us primarily as a social service organization working to reduce food insecurity in the Delaware Valley.  But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Philabundance also moonlights in environmental conservation―preventing over 10 million pounds of excess produce from going to the waste stream every year―and diverting it into the hands of those in need.

Calvin Trillin once said, “The remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers.  The original meal has never been found.”  I think Mrs. Trillin would probably have fit right in at Philabundance.  The food we collect is far from garbage. In fact, Philabundance leftovers are not your typical leftovers- they are unpurchased food that can no longer be sold in your traditional supermarkets. At the end of the day, not only did thousands of Philadelphians benefit from these nutritional foods, but we also prevented the release of harmful methane gas into the air by steering this food toward consumption, rather than landfills.

In 1939, USDA Staffer Milo Perkins stated, “We got a picture of a gorge, with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other. We set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across that chasm.”  Today, with food insecurity stretching throughout the entire country, that chasm continues to grow wider and deeper.

The food industry and organizations like ours must continue to foster our relationships to find an effective way to continue to provide excess food to those who truly need it.  To that end, Philabundance has recently enhanced our efforts in the industry through our “Grocers Against Hunger” program.  In 2009 alone, nearly 70 grocery stores throughout the Delaware Valley donated over 1.5 million pounds of food through Grocers Against Hunger.  That’s enough food to feed over 1,300 people every meal of the day for a year.

Feeding 1,300 people a day seems like a daunting task.  And it is.  But that gorge will remain until we have a concerted effort from everyone in the Delaware Valley.

Read this article about our Grocers Against Hunger program from the Philadelphia Business JournalGrocers are helping fight hunger

Another great article that lines up well with this blog is from the Huffington PostMeatless Monday: Wasted in America

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