California Nonprofit Redirects Hundreds of Millions of Pounds of Unused Food to the Hungry

Sep 7, 2022

Imagine a mountain of food as heavy as a cruise ship — 266 million pounds. That’s the weight of all the fresh fruit and vegetables California nonprofit Food Forward has stopped from entering landfills. The food has been given to hungry people instead.

Food Forward gathers extra produce from backyard fruit trees, public orchards, farmers’ markets, and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. It ships the food to places of need. Twelve California counties, six states, and two Native American tribal nations get the food. The group's been doing this work since 2009.

“Food Forward helped us get nutritious, fresh whole foods to these communities that would rarely be able to access it to begin with,” says a program leader of the advocacy group Vegan Outreach. “They’d be priced out of it.”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused inflation and supply-chain issues. That made it harder for those in need to buy fresh produce. So, Food Forward is a vital source of aid. Their website reports they’ve helped over 2 million people so far.

Keeping food out of landfills is also good for the environment. When plants rot in landfills, they release methane and carbon dioxide (CO2). Those gasses make climate change worse. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food a year. Its decomposition releases as much CO2 as 42 coal-fired power plants. Food Forward estimates that their efforts have stopped 18,820 pounds of CO2 and methane from entering the atmosphere.  

And that's good for us all.

Photo from Reuters.

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