When considering the wide range of problems we face as a global community, I sometimes get overwhelmed. From systemic racial injustice to climate change it is hard to know where to put my energy, and while I recognize it is all connected I am not always sure what the best pressure points are. And this is not to say that I have found an answer to my question. But a fact I keep coming back to is that we, as a community, are extremely wasteful, and this tendency to discard is a direct reflection of what we value. We have created an economy built on unsustainable methods of production, and have forced poor communities and communities of color to deal with the consequences. This system was not designed to benefit everyone, and works to further divide us using our race, our gender, our class, etc.
So while it is in no way an overarching solution, I believe one way we can try to fight back is by actively reducing waste. When we begin to become less wasteful, we cultivate a culture of valuing the work, time, and energy put into all the things we use on a daily basis. In my line of work, this means not wasting the water, nutrients, and labor that goes into producing the food that we eat. Food waste in the United States is estimated to be between 30-40% of the food supply, according to the USDA. This is a staggering statistic, one that is made even more shocking if you have spent any time at all around farmers. Farmers are not wasteful people; they know how to get the most from what they have. So why do we see so much food being thrown away?
The core issue is that we as consumers have been taught to expect “perfect” fruits and vegetables. We have shifted away from what is safe to eat and now think more about “looks good.” Matt and Shannon of Hollin Farms see this first hand. Every summer, droves of families travel down to hand pick their own peaches from the orchard, and every summer thousands of pounds of wonderfully fresh and edible fruit is knocked down and left untouched by the customers. That is why the farmers, along with their neighbor Barbara, got in touch with Food for Others. Food for Others, my place of work, is a food bank and pantry in Fairfax that serves around 1,500 households a week and gives out about 2.2 million pounds of food a year. As an organization we are always looking to bring in fresh and healthy options for our families, and were very excited to connect with Hollin Farms. For two years now we have been bringing groups of volunteers out between July and October to gather fallen peaches, taking only what we would be willing to eat ourselves. By doing so, we are not only preventing food loss, but increasing access to local farm fresh fruit for our families.
Our Food Recovery Events at Hollin Farms run most Sundays till October 20th. It is a great opportunity to come out with the family, spend time in the fresh air, and make a difference in your community. If you are interested in joining us and/or learning more about what we are doing, please look under “Hollin Farm Food Recovery Volunteer” on Sundays here!