After The Harvest

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Hunger – it’s one of the few issues I can think of that impacts lives locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. It’s hard for most of us to fathom, but according to numbers from local food relief groups, more than 1.25 million Kansas and Missouri residents are living “meal to meal.” It’s called “food insecurity,” and it must be terrifying.

In honor of World Food Day on October 16, a day dedicated to raising money to fight world hunger, I’d like to explore a key aspect of the problem of hunger and the efforts of a local group combatting it-food waste. According to information I found in my research, some 35 million tons of food is wasted in America each year. Approximately 2,000 pounds of food are produced annually for each person in our country, but some 650 pounds of that, a full one-third, are discarded between the farm and the table.

Here in Kansas City, the group After the Harvest is trying to cut down on the waste and get healthy, fresh produce into the hands and stomachs of people who need it. Executive Director Lisa Ousley says she believes good, nourishing food is a basic human right. “There’s plenty to go around,” Ousley noted. She went on to prove her point with some staggering statistics. “Some 53 percent of fresh produce grown in this country never reaches a human consumer. In this country, a green pepper that has two bumps on the bottom (as opposed to three or four) is rejected. So are ears two and three on a corn stalk. Cucumbers and zucchini that are 8 inches long are rejected. It’s a crime. This is perfectly good food. We have more than 46 million Americans at risk of hunger – one in five children,” Ousley stated.

Ousley says her organization attacks food waste on several fronts, but the main effort centers on “gleaning” after the harvest. In other words, picking what’s left in farmers’ fields. After the Harvest also picks up already harvested leftover produce and delivers that and the second harvest from the farmers to Harvesters – The Community Food Network. In fact, After the Harvest is Harvesters largest local produce donor.

After the Harvest works with hundreds of farmers and volunteers, but she says there’s always room for more. “Sign up to pick up leftovers at farmers markets. Join a volunteer group: VEG Squad, Produce Rescue Drivers, or Yambassadors,” Ousley said. Ousley says the VEG Squad is After the Harvest’s quick response, weekday glean team, the Produce Rescue Drivers is the volunteer crew that helps pick up at farmers markets, and Yambassadors speak, fundraise, and spread the word about After the Harvest. You can learn more at https://aftertheharvestkc.org/get-involved/volunteers/.

And, if you’d like to go beyond getting involved locally, World Food Day is a great opportunity. Run by the World Food Program USA, which seeks to lead the battle against global hunger, World Food Day is a chance for you to donate to the fight against world hunger. Go to worldfoodday.org to find out more and to participate. Let’s stop taking selfies for a day and be a little selfless. It will lead to a healthier planet!

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