Everyday over 3.6 million meals are sent to families and individuals struggling for food (1). Fresh produce offers health benefits that aren’t available in other foods but can also be difficult to store. Partnering with growers enables food banks to obtain and distribute fresh food faster, ensuring an optimal shelf-life for those who need it.
For most of us, hunger is not an ordinary experience, however, it’s estimated that there are 42 million people who face hunger in the United States. A large percentage of the hungry are either children (13 million) or elderly (5 million) (1). Many people, especially in low income and rural areas, have limited access to healthy foods (1, 2). According to Feeding America, 50% of rural counties and 26% of metropolitan counties face food insecurity (3).
Fortunately, growers have the power to combat these statistics at little cost. Over the last few years, several organizations have placed an emphasis on increasing the amount of fresh foods distributed to the hungry, creating opportunities for growers to donate. See below 3 incentives for growers to get involved.
1. Preventing Food Waste
It’s estimated that 20 billion pounds of produce are left in the field each year and ultimately wasted (4). Whether crops haven’t been purchased or they don’t visually appeal to grocery store shoppers, this unused produce is invaluable for those without enough to eat.
2. Tax Credit
Several states have implemented a tax credit for produce donations. Depending on the state, the tax credit amount may range from 10% – 25% of the produce’s wholesale value. States offering this program include but are not limited to: California, Oregon, and Colorado. Check to see if a tax credit program is offered in your state.
Tax Deduction vs. Credit
Deductions are subtracted from the tax payer’s income, decreasing their total amount of taxable income. In contrast, a tax credit is subtracted directly from what is owed on taxes, offering greater savings.
There are many programs available to make the donation process easy for growers. The programs below can make donations as simple as a phone call.
Feeding America – National Produce Program
To obtain and distribute large amounts of produce, Feeding America partners with growers and retailers. Produce that’s provided to the program is shipped to one of the 200 associated food banks in the US, offering fresher foods at a faster rate. Since beginning the National Produce Program a few years ago, fresh foods have become the most distributed type of food at Feeding America.
Society of St Andrew
Society of St Andrew takes the initiative a step further. If crops are leftover at the end of harvest, the Society of St Andrew sends volunteers to glean the fields. They gladly arrange gleaning, transportation and distribution of produce to feed America’s hungry. The organization has successfully saved and distributed over 27 million pounds of produce in collaboration with schools, faith groups, and other community volunteers. Society of St Andrew has a gleaning network in 14 different states and distributes food all over the country.
Local Food Bank Initiatives
Many food banks have their own programs to partner with growers. Southern Colorado, for example, offers their Care & Share program where they also send volunteers for gleaning.
Since many of these programs are local efforts, growers may be uninformed about how their food banks can partner with them. Katie Ettman, a representative from Feeding Colorado, indicated that growers typically learn about these programs through deep rooted relationships with the food bank or by word of mouth. Those that are interested in learning more about the options available in their area should reach out to their local food bank.
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