Editor’s note: This guest posting is adapted from an article on Steve’s Weave: Green Classifieds
As record temperatures and extreme climate events wreak havoc on our planet, it’s time to find creative opportunities to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Food Rescue US is one such opportunity. It’s an exciting, app-based program that diverts perfectly good perishable food from landfills — where it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas — and reroutes that food to people in need who eat it instead.
Why Rescue Food?
In the U.S., an astonishing 40 percent of all food produced goes uneaten, and the environmental toll of that waste is staggering. In addition to squandered fresh water resources and carbon emitted during production and transport, nearly all uneaten food ends up in landfills. From there, it’s broken down by bacteria and released as methane gas into our warming atmosphere. According to the National Resource Defense Council, U.S. food waste is responsible for 21 percent of landfill use and produces more greenhouse gas emissions every year than 37 million cars.
Methane may not get as much attention as carbon dioxide (CO2), but it’s the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, and it absorbs the sun’s heat and holds it in our atmosphere 28 to 36 times more effectively than CO2 over a 100-year period. Over 20 years, its global warming potential clocks in at a dire 84-87 times that of CO2.
That heat-trapping intensity makes the senseless production of methane in our local landfills extremely irresponsible, but it also provides opportunities to make a big difference for our climate right away.
How the App Works
That’s where the new Food Rescue US app jumps in. The process brings together three players. Supermarkets and restaurants sign up on their app to donate unsold but perfectly good food that they would otherwise throw away. Volunteers tap the app, find opportunities convenient to their schedules and locations, and then stop by the food source and deliver the bounty to receiving agencies that feed the food insecure. Food Rescue US has already saved more than 32 million pounds of food from landfills and provided more than 21 million meals to those in need.
A Food Run
Recently, I went on a food run through the Food Rescue US app. There wasn’t an orientation or training session. All I had to do was sign up, look through a list of pick-up and drop-off days and locations, and choose one that worked for me. For my very first run, I met up at a bagel shop with Lori and her 8-year-old granddaughter, Alexa, two Food Rescuers who showed me how quickly and easily it could be done.
Like many who participate in Food Rescue US, Lori’s primary motivation is to help those who don’t have enough to eat. More than one in 10 Americans qualifies as food insecure and nearly one in six U.S. households with children under the age of 18 struggle to put food on the table.
Lori told me about her own experience with hunger growing up. “I was raised with food insecurity and a complete lack of food at times, so I know how that feels,” she said. “Not just in the sense of not having enough food. But there is a feeling of there not being enough of anything in life.”
At the bagel shop, we only had to spend a minute. We told a staff member that we were with Food Rescue US, and they promptly handed us a large bag of day-old bagels that would otherwise have been tossed. From there, we took a 4- minute drive to a county-run senior center that’s surrounded by housing for impoverished elders. We brought in the bagels and were thanked by the people we saw.
And then we were done, just like that. It felt great.
How the App Spreads
Happily, this program — so convenient and responsive to environmental and humanitarian concerns — is growing rapidly. But if it isn’t in your area yet, you can be the one to bring it over.
The staff at Food Rescue US takes their mission seriously and has the resources to help potential volunteers, food donors, and receiving agencies bring the program to their areas. For example, Food Rescue US recently launched in Los Angeles after one caring individual reached out. She was soon joined by another person in nearby Venice Beach, who also independently contacted the group. Today, the Food Rescue US national coordinator is helping them recruit food donors as well as other volunteers.
Food Rescue US is also helping modernize and expand existing programs by licensing the use of their app. Many municipalities and food programs around the country benefit from the app’s ability to improve the traditional donation model, which tends to rely heavily on canned goods. By sharing their proprietary app, Food Rescue US addresses two worthy goals. It makes it practical for other organizations to provide the food insecure with the fresh perishables that we all deserve and need, and helps protect our planet’s future by reducing methane gas emissions.
The effort to stop the farm-to-landfill pipeline is worth fitting into your schedule, bringing to your city, or adding to your local food program’s benefits. An enormous quantity of perfectly good perishable food is about to be thrown in the trash, far too much methane is about to be added to our warming atmosphere, and plenty of people could eat that food — and be spared that methane — instead.
How To Get Involved
To go on a food run yourself, download the app on your smartphone by searching for “Food Rescue US” or access it on the Food Rescue US website. For information about bringing the program to your area or adding your own food program to their app, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1 (800) 280-3298.
This post is adapted from an article written by Z. Loutfi on Steve’s Weave: Green Classifieds.