Topical Area: Climate/Environment, Health, Agriculture and Improved Nutrition
Objectives : An estimated 20 billion pounds of edible fruits and vegetables are wasted at the farm level every year, often due to being unmarketable or the farm growing excess.1 This wasted food could go towards meeting the hunger and nutritional needs of the one in eight Americans who are food insecure.2 Food distribution agencies are typically unable to provide a balanced diet for their clients.3 Rescuing or gleaning excess produce from farms can reduce food waste while providing fresh, nutritious food to people in need. However, there is limited information on what factors farmers take into consideration when deciding to donate excess produce. The purpose of this project was to learn about farmers’ views towards donating excess produce to food agencies.
Methods : Semi-structured interviews with fruit and vegetable farmers in the greater Kansas City metro area were completed as part of a larger program evaluation of the gleaning and food rescue agency, After the Harvest. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for common themes across responses.
Results : Interviews were completed with 32 farmers. Sixteen farmers had previously donated produce to the gleaning agency and sixteen had not. Most reported having excess produce because they had grown more than they could harvest or sell. Excess produce was either donated to the gleaning agency, left in the field, composted, fed to animals, or donated directly by the farmer to food banks or churches. Farmers who had donated liked doing so because they want the food they grow to be consumed, the produce goes to people who need it, and the donation took very little time and effort. Those who had not donated were concerned about the amount of time it would take to organize the donation, having volunteers in their fields, and that the crops with excess amounts would be worth gleaning and donating to food agencies. Overall, farmers were very willing to donate excess produce and most were willing to have volunteer gleaners at their farms.
Conclusions : Farmers like to know the food they grow gets consumed but often do not have the time or resources to handle excess produce and are most likely to donate when it is made easier for them to do so. Food rescue agencies should provide flexible donation options to farmers and communicate to farmers that they can donate produce without losing time or money.
Funding Sources : The Hall Family Foundation