In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we bring you a dynamic session from WasteExpo Together Online 2021, “National Food Recovery Evolution: MealConnect and Feeding America.” This session features speakers Justin Block, Managing Director of Digital Platform Technology, and Nathan Crone, Senior Account Manager of Agri Sourcing Partnerships, both at Feeding America—the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S. Dr. Stuart Buckner of Buckner Environmental Associates, LLC, served as moderator.
Here’s a sneak peek into the presentation:
Block set the stage by talking about Feeding America’s engagement in the issues of hunger and food waste. He noted that these are urgent threats, particularly with over $218 billion worth of food being thrown away each year. He also pointed out that 275 U.S. counties have food insecurity rates over 20%. The Feeding America approach and process relies on a wide array of food donors, its network of more than 200 certified member food banks, and the agencies that utilize the food in helping to feed the 37 million hungry Americans.
Block went on to talk about MealConnect, the first nationally available food-donation app. It’s free to use and allows organizations to post donations; trucks can also reroute rejected loads to food banks. Since its launch in 2014, the app has facilitated the rescuing of 2.9 billion pounds of food, which has helped 10,200 hunger relief organizations. Feeding America is continuing to expand MealConnect as well as access better food-waste data through it. Its “2.0 release” is coming soon, which will enable users to better find the produce they need, better match supply and demand, and will feature a mobile, more user-friendly design.
Crone went on to elaborate on the emphasis on produce. On top of the fact that billions of pounds of produce go to waste each year, there is of course great nutritional value in such—and providing food-insecure people with produce encourages more balanced diets and helps to stretch food budgets. Some of the key challenges his team is working on include:
- How do we better connect regional supply with food bank demand?
- How do we ensure donated produce is available in every region?
- How do we drive efficiency and maximize scale and reach?
- How can we improve capacity to handle, store, and distribute more produce?
To wrap things up, Block showed off some of the marketing materials related to MealConnect’s new campaign.
After the presentation, Bruckner posed questions including, “How can consumers help reduce food waste?” Block encouraged “becoming champions and advocates and encouraging businesses to be more mindful and intentional about unsalable product.” Taking that one step further, consumers can visit FeedingAmerica.org’s Food Bank Finder and “help local food businesses further up the supply chain—packers, distributors, wholesalers…they may not even realize they can donate their extra food. So if you can help making the initial connection—just letting them know that food bank is in the community,” it is a big help.
Listen to the full session above.