Coordinating food recovery efforts during COVID-19

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Food Rescue US pickup from a business shedding inventory amid COVID-19. 

About 40 food recovery and food waste reduction advocates gathered virtually Friday to share resources and discuss the best ways to collaborate to make sure everyone has enough to eat and good food isn’t wasted as the world deals with COVID-19.

Food rescuers, composting experts, food policy leaders and others shared their latest work and updates in a slide deck which is available here

Highlights included:

Food Rescue US – Kate Urbank, whose volunteer network picks up unwanted food from businesses and delivers it to nonprofits, noted that her volunteers had been picking up food from restaurants, caterers and hotels that were shutting down operations. She reported a huge increase in volunteer sign-ups, as well massive rescues, including a 2,000-pound donation from a food supplier. However, she’s concerned that some restaurants may not know about food rescue and are dumping food at a time when it’s in high demand in vulnerable communities. She’s also looking for alternate sources of food as her usual suppliers shutter. Reach her at kate@foodrescue.us.

DC Food Project – This group has created a very comprehensive guide for food access for those in need. They are also distributing “Emergency Weekend Bags” to equip families with steady supplies of healthy food. If you’d like to donate, contact: dcfoodproject@gmail.com.

DC Food Policy Council. The DCFPC is helping coordinate the city’s emergency response and shared updates on their work as well as guidelines (in slide deck) for those working to keep the city fed during the crisis.

RescueDish – The DCFRWG program that normally works with restaurants to model food waste reduction for consumers is urging residents to support its partners (listed in slide deck) with food orders as well as purchases of gift cards and donations to employee relief funds. Some restaurants, like Mola, are shifting to market models and selling groceries, providing an alternative to grocery trips while also supporting local farms.

EatOrToss.com –  This website, which provides consumer-friendly information on “questionable” food and tips for stretching ingredients, has seen a large increase in traffic since people started staying home and cooking more. For any organizations focused on consumer education, EatOrToss founder and FRWG board member Rachael Jackson reports that now is a particularly good time for promoting reducing food waste at home.

Composting and community gardening. Members report that as commercial compost business is down, more residents are signing up for at home compost pickup. Compost drop-off sites at farmers markets in each ward are expected to stay open as long as the markets are open. USCC/ILSR Composting in the Time of COVID-19 webinar series  will be available April 7, 14, 21. Meanwhile, DC Parks and Recreation urban farms and gardens are open, as are Department of Public Works compost cooperatives, though social distancing guidelines are being observed. 

Last Call for Food. This company, which normally works with restaurants to sell discounted meals at the end of the day, is looking to create a voucher program that would help keep restaurants in business while feeding those in need. If your restaurant would like to participate, email Erin McGeoy, erin@lastcallforfood.com.

Resources. Shared resources included:
Dining at a Distance . A comprehensive lists of restaurants (take out/delivery) and farms (delivery and farmside pick up)
COVID-19 – Related Wasted Food Resources. A national list of resources related to COVID-19 and food waste, access, safety, composting.
Hunger Free America is developing national food assistance databases (will be public & used for national Hunger Hotline) – please respond to their survey 
– Home Food Waste Challenge (Beth Gingold, Recycle Leaders)- 4 week competition, sign up by 4/10 Let’s Team Up on Food Waste @ Home for Earth Day!_
– Food Recovery Network’s Donate Surplus Food During COVID-19 National Emergency
– Future Harvest and MD Farmers Market Association launched a Find a Farmer Map last week for the Metro Region.
– Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic: Donating Excess Food During COVID-19 National Emergency
– Virginia Cooperative Extension has a number of resources on food safety and access amid COVID-19. 

For more, please check out the slide deck.