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Do Food Banks Reduce Food Waste?

The first week of March is National Food Waste Action Week, a time where we are asked to reflect and act on the national issue of food waste. At a time when 353,000 Middle and West Tennesseans are facing food insecurity, it is hard to believe that millions of pounds of food are also being wasted. Thankfully, Second Harvest is here to help. 

Since 2006, Second Harvest Food Bank has pioneered a remarkable initiative: the Grocery Rescue Program. The Grocery Rescue Program strategically partners with about 350 retailers to save and redistribute food that’s perfectly safe to eat but can’t be sold by stores for reasons such as being no longer in season or missing a label. These items, ranging from perishables to even non-food household staples, are rescued from the fate of landfills and delivered to Partner Agencies to serve those in need. 

Why is this important? Brad Bornac, Food Resource Manager at Second Harvest, manages this program, and says the stats are staggering. The U.S. discards 80 million tons of food annually, equating to 149 billion missed meals and a $444 billion loss. This isn’t just about waste; it’s about missed opportunities to combat hunger.  

Brad continues, the Grocery Rescue Program is making significant strides in addressing these issues. Last year alone, it diverted over 11 million pounds of food, turning potential waste into healthy meals for many. By rescuing a wide array of food items – from frozen staples to fresh meat and dairy – the Grocery Rescue Program ensures a variety of nutritious options reach those in need. 

As we observe Food Waste Action Week, it’s crucial to recognize the impact and importance of initiatives like the Grocery Rescue Program. It’s a testament to what can be achieved when we rethink our approach to surplus food — transforming it from waste into a resource that alleviates hunger and supports our communities. 

Join us in celebrating this innovative program’s success and consider how you, too, can be part of the solution to food waste and food insecurity. Together, we can make a difference, one rescued meal at a time. 

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