by Olivia Hamilton Imagine you are a single mother of three in New Jersey, working but barely earning enough to make ends meet. It’s the holiday season, and while other parents are worrying about the gifts they will buy their children, you’re worried about having enough food to feed your children.
While leaving a grocery store, you see a dumpster full of leftover food from Thanksgiving. This food is neither damaged nor rotten. While it has passed its sell-by date, it is still edible. This food could help feed you and your children, but grocery stores are choosing to throw it away. Each year, retail stores waste millions of pounds of food. Much of this food could still be safely consumed and help feed families who live in food-insecure households. However, retail stores and food banks are beginning to work together to reduce food waste and help New Jerseyans who have limited resources feed their families. In Westfield, the Holy Trin- ity Food Pantry, run by Mr. Bill Crandall, Ms. Nora Cran- dall and Mr. Tom Conheeney, works with grocery stores to stock its shelves. “We pick up from grocery stores twice a week,” said Conheeney. “The grocery stores are very good about it.” Hunger in New Jersey According to the Poverty Research Institute, one out of five New Jersey families does not have enough money to afford basic necessities like food. Additionally, according to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, 1.1 million New Jerseyans live in food- insecure households. Food banks and food pantries help supply food to families who would otherwise go hungry. According to Nora Crandall, the Holy Trinity Food Pantry receives most of its food from drives but also gets some food from donations.The grocery stores that donate to the food pantry in- clude Target, ShopRite, Kings and other local stores, and they donate both nonperish- able foods and frozen foods. These stores are part of a larger movement to limit food waste at the retail level. Supermarkets Many supermarkets are involved in efforts to stop hunger. Kings in Garwood holds drives for the Holy Trinity Food Pantry, according to Kings store manager Mr. Brian Delp. “We donate to the New Jersey food bank, mostly day-old bread and baked goods,” said Delp. This Thanksgiving, Kings donated 25 turkeys to the Holy Trinity Food Pantry, Conheeney said. Before Westfield’s Trader Joe’s roof collapsed during a 2016 snowstorm, it donated food to the Holy Trinity Food Pantry. Mr. Ron Decasse, a “mate” (store manager) at Trader Joe’s in Millburn, said: “We give to food pantries, and they take whatever we have that is in excess.” These donations, which go mostly to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, include slightly damaged goods, bread, fruit and anything that cannot be put on shelves. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey leads the effort to prevent food waste at the retail level through a program called Supermarket Gleaning, which allows the food bank to take leftover food from retail stores. “We have approximately 250 retail sites that glean with us,” said Mr. Tim Vogel, director of food sourcing at the Community FoodBank of NJ. “In calendar year 2015, we gleaned over 8 million pounds.” The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that an estimated 31 percent of the food available for consumption at the retail and consumer levels is wasted each year in America. Making it easier for large retail stores to donate excess food is one way to limit this waste. “Retail gleaning makes a significant dent in the amount of food that is wasted,” said Vogel. Local Markets While smaller markets do not have the same amount of food to donate as supermarkets, they are still trying to limit food waste. According to Joe Barca, who works at Tom the Green Grocer in Scotch Plains, Tom’s is devoted to limiting food waste. “We have a unique system set up because we have a decent number of people working here, and at the end of the day we distribute any leftover food to employees who have lesser means,” he said. Additionally, one employee at Tom’s knows a struggling family with four kids and no father, so he takes the majority of leftover food to the mother. “It makes everybody feel good that at least it’s not going to waste,” said Barca. Dreyer Farms, a Cranford farmer’s market, is also dedicated to limiting food waste, according to Ms. Justine Gray, social media manager and head of community outreach. “With regular retail stuff, we compost it,” said Gray. “We create a large compost pile and till it into our soil.” Since much of the leftover produce is starting to go bad, it is not suitable quality for donation. Waste less, feed more Food waste reduction has yet to be perfected. According to the US Department of Agriculture, in September 2015 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg called for a reduction in food waste of 50 percent by 2030. This was America’s first food waste reduction goal. At the state level, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey is working to increase its impact. “Most important is the relationship between the donor and the food bank or agency,” said Vogel. “If it is a good relationship and there is a champion at the store, the donations will increase and be of good quality.” While limiting food waste at the retail level is important, it is also possible for families to cut their food waste and help families in need. In Westfield, students can limit their food waste by donating to the Holy Trinity Food Pantry. “We get many more donations from individual people during the holidays,” said Conheeney. “We’re fully stocked right now.” However, during other times of the year, the pantry needs more donations. To drop off food, students can go to the Holy Trinity Food Pantry (336 First St.) between 9:30 a.m. and noon on weekdays.