We're so glad you're concerned about this. The good news is that our business doesn't negatively impact what the food banks receive. We are sourcing produce that would otherwise get left in the field or perhaps sold to become processed food or given away as animal feed. The good and bad news is that in modern America, we are growing more than enough food for everyone to eat –the trouble is getting it to hungry people while it’s still fresh.
As context, in 2017, the National Resource Defense Council and ReFED reported that 20 billion pounds of produce is lost on farms each year. This is produce that is not bought by retailers or donated to food banks, this produce is either unharvested or harvested only to be discarded at packing houses. Simply put, there is thankfully more than enough produce around to feed everyone, including the food banks that need it the most. To put this into perspective, Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States, reported that in 2017, they received 1.47 billion pounds of produce.
Produce presents a particularly tricky logistical problem for our over-productive food system, as it has such a short shelf-life once it’s picked and must be kept refrigerated. This leads to a lot of unintended waste that we are working hard to turn around. We’re proud to have recovered 30 million of pounds of produce to date, but still have a lot of work ahead of us. As a small but inspiring example of the power of recovering produce, the NRDC estimated that if just 5 percent of the U.S. broccoli production is not harvested, over 90 million pounds of broccoli go uneaten. That would be enough to feed every child that participates in the National School Lunch Program over eleven 4-ounce servings of broccoli. Just think what we can all do if we work together to recover more produce and use more of what we bring home!
We do recognize that fighting hunger and fighting food waste are interrelated, which is why we regularly donate thousands of pounds of produce to our food bank partners across the country and continue to help make healthy, delicious food accessible and affordable for everyone. Food Banks are some of our closest allies in the ongoing fight against waste and hunger. For the record, here’s what Amanda of the Westchester Food Pantry in Chicago had to say about Imperfect:
“As a food pantry director, I can tell you that Imperfect has been a HUGE donor for us...In the winter, when produce is scarce and local gardens are memories, it has been Imperfect that we truly rely on. Often in the winter, their donation might be the only produce we have for our clients. And let me be very clear: before Imperfect, there were NO large produce donations for us. There were no farmers or agriculture companies trying to give us produce. NONE. Thanks to Imperfect, we’ve gotten MORE produce than ever before for our clients.”