A major problem around the world, food waste has serious environmental, financial and cultural implications globally, but also right in our own backyard. This Earth Day, Feeding Westchester, the county’s largest nonprofit hunger-relief organization, is calling attention to the ongoing problem of food waste and their partnership with local farmers, wholesalers and retailers to keep nutritious food out of landfills and in the hands of those who need it most.
Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown out worldwide. With nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and seafood getting tossed, uneaten food is the number one item in America’s landfills and accounts for a substantial portion of U.S. methane emissions. Recognizing the need to address this sobering reality, chief among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are to waste less food, support local farmers and donate what you don’t use.
The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted – the equivalent of $165 billion each year. And, according to a 2021 Food Waste Study released by Woodard & Curran, Westchester is also generating a significant amount of food waste – roughly 125,000 tons annually among commercial businesses with an additional 85,537 tons from residential homes.
Even with this staggering amount of discarded food, roughly one in six individuals across New York State struggles with hunger. This includes more than 200,000 Westchester residents who are either food insecure or at risk and in need of assistance.
“While these numbers can be overwhelming to digest, we have the power to effect real change,” said Ryan Brisk, Senior Director, Operations at Feeding Westchester. “The way we purchase, store, consume and discard food can add up to a massive collective impact. At Feeding Westchester, our food recovery initiatives support local communities and food-insecure people. Perfectly good food is wasted at every step in the supply chain – from farm to table. Food recovery programs divert food from landfills and instead get it into the hands of hungry people. It’s a win-win.”
Feeding Westchester’s Food Recovery Program includes nearly 100 farmers, wholesalers and retailers. Last year, 3.4 million pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products were rescued through the program – the equivalent of 2.8 million meals. In the first quarter of 2021, Feeding Westchester diverted 810,935 pounds of nutritious food from ending up in landfills.
Brisk continued, “Our fleet of ten trucks pick up the food and transport it to our distribution center. Once sorted, the food is promptly delivered to hungry people through our approximately 300 programs and partners, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and day care centers. We rely on the generosity of program participants like Stop & Shop to make this possible.”
“Stop & Shop is proud to continue our Retail Recovery work with Feeding Westchester to help prevent food waste across Westchester County and provide much needed support to those in our community facing food insecurity," said Bob Yager, Stop & Shop's Senior Vice President of Operations Strategy and Support. “We look forward to continuing in our commitment to sustainability, waste minimization and environmental improvements across all areas of our business. Through our Retail Recovery work with Feeding Westchester, we are able to continue in our efforts to minimize food waste while providing wholesome, nutritious food to neighbors in need year-round.”
For those looking to minimize their food waste at home, Feeding Westchester has created resources on their website including six surprising food waste facts and eight tips for reducing food waste. A food dating guide is also available to help consumers avoid date labeling confusion.
Every $1 donated to Feeding Westchester provides up to three meals for local children, seniors, and families struggling with hunger. To find help, or give help, visit feedingwestchester.org or call (914) 923-1100. For the latest news and updates, follow @FeedingWestchester on Facebook and Instagram and @FeedWestchester on Twitter.
About Feeding Westchester
Feeding Westchester is the county’s leading nonprofit hunger-relief organization at the heart of a network of nearly 300 community partners and programs. With a mission to nourish their neighbors in the fight against hunger, the organization sources and distributes good, nutritious food and other resources throughout every community in Westchester County. In the last year, Feeding Westchester delivered 22 million pounds of food or 18.4 million meals through soup kitchens, food pantries, schools, shelters, residential programs, and mobile distributions. The nonprofit is committed to creating a community where all people have access to the food they need today, and the fundamental resources to build a better tomorrow. Feeding Westchester is located at 200 Clearbrook Road, Elmsford, NY 10523. For more information, visit feedingwestchester.org.