By now we’ve all read about or seen the toll COVID-19 has taken on the U.S. economy, and our nation’s food system in particular. Millions of gallons of milk being poured down the drain. Vegetables left to rot in fields. Meat facility closures lead to significant amounts of wasted poultry and pork. The challenges the food industry faces due to the coronavirus are significant, and organizations across the nation have scrambled to rescue food intended for restaurants, corporations and other businesses that would otherwise go to waste.
Back in May, our partners at ReFED — a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing solutions to food waste — announced their COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund, an initiative to fund organizations fighting the most immediate food waste needs during the crisis by rescuing food and providing it to hunger relief organizations and communities in need.
Their call to donors was to help raise $1 million to fund organizations and help prevent more 10 million pounds of food from going to waste.
One month into the effort and the call was answered—big time.
More than 60 individual donors as well as foundations, trusts and corporate contributors gave $1 million to the fund within a month. Grants have been awarded to more than 25 grantee organizations to fund and scale their food rescue and delivery efforts, which include on-farm food recovery, hunger relief, logistics and last-mile delivery. The first cohort includes new start-ups, established food banks, for-profits, nonprofits and organizations operating within communities hardest hit by the virus — including a few grantees we’re highlighting below.
As of June 8, ReFED and their grantees expect to recover more than 50 million pounds of food — equivalent to 41.5 million meals — within 90 days. But their crucial work isn’t over yet. “Not only do the Fund’s current grantees report a total 90-day funding need of more than $9 million, but there are a lot of other food waste heroes doing great work that also need support,” said Alexandria Coari, ReFED’s capital and innovation director.
ReFED is continuing to raise money for the fund and working to ensure even more of the hundreds of organizations who have reached out to them can be awarded funding. The nonprofit is also encouraging those passionate about giving or assisting food recovery efforts to explore the COVID-19 directory of fundable initiatives to make an immediate impact in their area, and stay up-to-date on ReFED’s COVID-19 efforts on their website.
Meet a Few of the Grantees
With so many of ReFED’s COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund grantees working around-the-clock to rescue food and deliver it to people in need, we wanted to highlight just a few of them. You can explore all of the grantees and the work they’re doing on ReFED’s website.
Started by a team of college students whose semesters were cut short by COVID-19, FarmLink is mobilizing a new supply chain to acquire farm surplus destined to be wasted and distributing it to food banks in need. All the money they’ve received via donations and grants like ReFED’s goes directly to buying produce and paying the wages of farmers and truckers, ensuring they receive the financial support needed while also getting food to tables across the country.
Working closely with the U.S. seafood industry, SeaShare has sourced high-quality, nutritious seafood and provided it to food banks nationwide since 1994. Since the onset of COVID-19, SeaShare has scaled up its efforts to provide more than 750,000 pounds of seafood to Feeding America food banks nationwide, and looks to double the amount of rescued seafood in the next 90 days donated thanks to the grant from ReFED.
Natural Upcycling is a food scraps/organics collection company based in upstate New York that creates energy from food waste through anaerobic digestion. As a result of COVID-19, they’ve expanded outside their typical business and partnered with the Dairy Farmers of America to recover thousands of gallons of surplus milk from New York farms and deliver it to food banks, with the hope of being able to rescue and distribute more than 25,000 gallons before the end of the summer.
FarmDrop is an online platform that enables farmers to list and sell their food—and then only bring that food to a centralized farmers market location to be picked up by or delivered to their customers. Currently operating within six municipalities in Maine, the ReFED grant will accelerate FarmDrop’s expansion to additional states where it can empower more farmers to make money off their surplus crops and prevent approximately 500,000 pounds of food from going to waste.
Explore more of the ReFED grantees at covid.refed.com/grantees-in-action.
Grantee photos used courtesy of each grantee via ReFED.