“We’ve got enough food to feed everybody, we’ve just got to figure out how to do it,” says Chris Durkin, Director of Memberships and Community Relations at Harvest Coop. Chris and I are driving over to a local pantry to drop off a box of food, and we’re talking about waste and food rescue on the way.
Chris has worked at Harvest Coop for years, and he knows everything about the store and the neighborhood, and he knows most of the customers by name. Back at the store where I met up with him, he was chatting with a long-time coop member about their quarterly Disability Group meeting. He introduces me before excusing himself so that we can get on our way over to the food pantry.
Harvest Coop was established in 1971 as The Boston University Student Union Food Co-op where, once a week, the members would work out of an old gas station to distribute produce. Harvest carries organic and non-organic produce, beer and wine, bulk foods, local brands and basic brands that everyone knows. They have locations in Jamaica Plain and Cambridge, and are completely open to the public. Unlike other coops, Harvest has both paying members and non-paying members, so anyone can shop there.
Last week there were six boxes to deliver to the pantry and today there’s only one, but we still make the journey across town to deliver the food. Harvest donates packaged food every week to Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). Chris says some weeks are slower for food donation then others, but the store always has something to give. “The best place to store extra food is in someone’s stomach,” Chris says, reciting an old adage.
Harvest has been donating to ABCD for the last 10 years, and they’ve also been giving to Lovin’ Spoonfuls and Food for Free, two other Boston food rescue organizations. Food rescue is collecting edible, packaged or fresh food from restaurants, grocery stores, markets, and other food facilities in order to feed homeless or low-income people. Leftover, prepared food and packaged, not saleable food often gets thrown in the trash and eventually tucked into a landfill, so organizations like ABCD collect this food to feed others in their community.
“We have to get used to the fact that there are limits, and we have to use what we have more resourcefully,” says Chris. It’s estimated that almost half of the food produced worldwide is wasted. In developing countries, most food waste happens at the production level (transport, storage). In developed countries, most food waste happens at the consumption level (homes, restaurants).
Just looking in my own fridge, I can spot a head of rainbow chard and a bunch of salad turnips that are very wilted and I’ll probably end up throwing them out if they don’t get eaten like yesterday. This trip to Harvest and ABCD makes me wonder what I can do better to reduce food waste. Food rescue organizations are an integral part of reducing food waste in America, and it’s good to know that when you shop at a store like Harvest Coop, they take care to donate every extra piece of food that they can.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.