Comfort Food Receives Grant for Food Rescue

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Volunteers glean surplus food at the Alleged Farm.

 

Comfort Food Community of Greenwich, New York announces that it has been awarded a grant of $112,944 a year for five years by the State of New York under the Food Recovery component of the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). The award was made as a result of a Request for Proposals issued by the NYS Department of Health in the winter of 2017, seeking applications for projects that would expand Food Recovery programs in the State. $ 5.9 million was distributed to 7 organizations throughout the Capital District in response to the RFP, including Comfort Food Community.

Food Recovery, also known as  Surplus Management or Gleaning, has increasingly been identified by policy-makers and food system experts as a solution that addresses two problems – food loss and food insecurity.  Food loss is a major concern because anytime  food is wasted along the supply chain – either in fields, in pack rooms, in transport, at stores or in  homes – it represents wasted resources. All of the inputs that went into growing, transporting and storing food – all of that time and money – is lost, as well.  The USDA estimates that 52% of the fruits and vegetables that are grown in the U.S. are never consumed, resulting in $165 billion in economic losses. Unused and spoiled food has an output, as well – methane gas – which is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

All of this food waste runs alongside the parallel problem of rising food insecurity. In Washington County, New York; specifically, while the number of households in the county living at or below the Federal Poverty Level is only 12%, many more are still not self-sufficient, as identified by the United Way’s recent ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report.  The ALICE threshold is determined on a county by county basis and is the average level of income that a household needs to afford the basics defined by the “Household Survival Budget.” The report identifies 45% of Washington County households being below the ALICE threshold. When this percentage is applied to the total population, 28,309 individuals qualify as “needy” in Washington County.

Comfort Food Community Executive Director Devin Bulger stated that the organization decided to apply for the Food Recovery component of the HPNAP grant because it was a natural extension of activities Comfort Food has been undertaking for the four years of its existence to bridge the gap between food loss and food insecurity. He said “Since our founding, we have prioritized the distribution of fresh, healthful foods in our pantries.  When we began managing the Greenwich Food Pantry in 2014, almost no fresh food was offered as part of the menu. Now, the majority of the 200,000-plus pounds of food that we distribute through the Greenwich and Cossayuna pantries is fresh food – 17,000 pounds of which came from local farms in 2016. We distributed an additional 6,300 pounds of fresh food through our Fresh Food Pantry program in communities throughout Washington County in 2016, as well.”

The funding and technical support that is provided through the HPNAP grant will allow Comfort Food Community to expand this area of activity even further. Funding will be used to build-out refrigerator and freezer capacity at Emergency Feeding sites throughout the county, so that those sites can receive and distribute more fresh food to their community members.  It will allow for improved washing and packing facilities that better ensure the quality and food-safety of the produce that is distributed through the Fresh Food Pantry network. Importantly, it will allow Comfort Food to hire a full-time Food Rescue Coordinator, to capture more food in fields and deliver the food to more communities. Comfort Food Community President Maryann McGeorge explained “this grant will also allow us to contract with local farms for the wholesale purchase of popular fruits and vegetables, supporting farmer’s bottom line and increasing the consistency with which we are able to offer healthful foods to families that typically can’t afford fresh foods at the supermarket. Without this significant funding from New York State, we would not be able to provide the benefits of healthy food to as many people in our region, improving the overall well-being of the entire community.”

Under its contract with the State of New York, Comfort Food Community is responsible for any opinions, results, findings and/or interpretations of data, which do not necessarily represent those of the State.