An estimated 25-40 percent of the food produced in the United States will never be eaten; about 95 percent of that will get tossed into landfills. There, the waste creates large amounts of methane gas and contributes to the powerful effects of global warming. Meanwhile, one out of seven Americans is “food insecure.”
We have just begun to battle these statistics as a country, but even smaller areas of the US — like the Hudson Valley — have realized that their part in alleviating food waste matters, too. New York alone contributes almost 17 percent of our country’s waste stream, while 13.5 percent of the state’s citizens are food insecure.
So what has our area done about it? Quite a lot, actually.
Last October, the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park hosted Feeding the Hudson Valley, an event that converted more than 3,000 pounds of potentially unused food — imperfect-looking produce deemed “unsellable” by supermarkets and excess vegetables from local farm harvests — into a healthy feast. Participating organizations had educational stands, posters and even a make-your-own-smoothie bike (using yogurt and berries taken off the market because of arbitrary use-by labels) in efforts to illustrate the quality of the food being discarded and make a grassroots-level impact. “It’s food that would otherwise go to waste,” says Rich Schiafo, senior planner of the Hudson Valley Regional Council (HVRC). “And it was a very good meal; people were impressed.”
HVRC hopes to continue battling this issue by educating culinary entrepreneurs and expanding the network of volunteers who help farmers collect their excess harvest and redistribute it to pantries and soup kitchens — a process known as gleaning.
Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orange County also focuses on gleaning with nearby farms. They’ve also created a Master Canning program, where food workers and community-rooted residents can receive a Master Canning License, aimed to encourage preserving harvests before they spoil.
Through Dutchess Outreach’s program, The Lunch Box, director Margot Schulman and her team coordinate with middlemen organizations to pick up extra or unsold food from area colleges, chain restaurants and grocery stores. Their collection of edibles is then used by The Lunch Box to create more than 500 hot meals — lunches, after-school meals and dinners — daily.
The Hudson Valley is rising as a food warrior, fighting to eliminate edible waste, refocus energy use and save resources. Food waste has a much larger impact on us than we realize, and everything, everyone, goes hand-in-hand; it just takes a chain of forward-thinkers for others to crave a taste of change.
Here are three local organizations you can join to eliminate edible waste throughout the region:
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is a national organization that takes leftover food from hotels, colleges, catering companies and restaurants and redistributes it elsewhere. To sign up for a time slot with the Poughkeepsie headquarters, visit www.rescuingleftovercuisine.org/volunteer.
Long Table Harvest, based in Germantown, reaches out for volunteers to help transfer harvests for gleaning projects. Get involved by registering to volunteer at www.longtableharvest.org.
Second Chance Foods is a nonprofit food rescuer located in Fishkill that gathers unsold, aesthetically “ugly” food and redistributes to community outreach. Connect with them by emailing email@example.com or calling 914.406.3767.