The Farmlink Project wants to put food waste to good use. “One third of all the food that we grow in the world goes to waste,” says James Kanoff, co-founder and co-CEO of the Farmlink Project. The nonprofit is on a mission to rescue surplus foods from farms across America, and use it to feed communities in need, all while reducing the environmental impacts of food waste—like global warming—in the process.
The Farmlink Project started in 2020 at a time when there were simultaneous juxtaposing narratives of long lines at food banks and tons of food going to waste “due to the halted commercial food industry,” explains Farmlink co-founder and co-CEO, Ben Collier. Farmlink’s goal at that point was to simply connect farms with food banks and shelters.
“We picked up the phone [and] called organizations to tell them about our new great idea, and what we learned is that people have been doing this for a long time,” shares Aidan Reilly, Farmlink’s co-founder and Head of Partnerships. “There’s been food waste in the United States for decades before the pandemic, and rather than try to reinvent the wheel, we’re gonna be the ones who are the scrappiest and help those who are most marginalized.”
Their first connection was an egg ranch who had a surplus of 10,800 eggs. The trio rented a U-Haul truck to pick up the eggs and deliver them to their local food bank.
After a few more successful deliveries, Farmlink started to promote their program to get the word out to more farms with food surplus. “Within a couple months, farmers were calling us rather than us having to call them and get hung up on,” Reilly tells In The Know.
Beyond literally getting food into shelters and people’s homes, Farmlink wants to reduce food waste by helping people rethink their expectations when it comes to what produce is supposed to look like. “50 million pounds of bananas went to waste in Mexico because a storm yielded these brown spots on the bananas where, cosmetically, if you peeled them, they were perfect,” says Collier.
Farmlink also wants to highlight that food waste isn’t just a moral tragedy, but an environmental tragedy as well. “When you send organic matter like food to a landfill, it decomposes improperly, it releases a lot of methane, which is way more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to heating up the atmosphere,” explains Reilly. Over the last 2.5 years, Farmlink has calculated that they’ve saved about 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide-equivalent from going to the atmosphere in the form of methane.
Farmlink is currently 600 volunteers strong and is closing in on rescuing their hundred millionth pound of food, but they’re nowhere near done. “40 million Americans don’t know where their next meal is gonna come from. These are the people that we want to support, and alleviate hunger in the household,” says Reilly. “It’s incredibly motivating to create a system where we can get everyday people who wanna help one truck at a time.”
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