Food waste is a huge problem. Approximately 40 percent of all food is thrown away, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food waste alone is the third largest source of all greenhouse gas emissions. One significant source of waste is the produce that is sent to landfill for failing to pass strict inspections when it is imported into the US—products with even the slightest imperfection are discarded at the border. One Arizona non-profit, Borderlands Food Bank, undertook to rescue some of this food and redirect it to families in need, and is saving 35-40 million pounds of perfectly good, safe produce each year that would otherwise have simply been thrown in the trash.


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As NPR reports, Borderlands Food Bank started out much like any other organization that supports families in need of food—they distributed pre-packaged, non-perishable items. When Yolanda Soto came on as executive director 20 years ago, according to NPR, “she was aghast at the amount of rejected produce saturating the local landfill, especially given the great need of people in the region.”

Related: Study finds cutting food waste could feed one billion hungry people

This rejected food is, very often, quite safe and edible—minor imperfections such as scuffs or bruising on a produce item is enough for it to be discarded. As Soto told NPR, “We are crazy… The waste is enormous, and it’s just not right.”

Soto began to reach out to local distribution warehouses, asking them to offer rejected produce to Borderlands before sending it into the trash. Twenty years later, Borderlands now has 200 donors in Arizona, and distributes food to 389 non-profits across the country. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Soto explained, “Once we saturate Arizona, we then offer produce to 18 other states throughout the nation.”

Particularly ripe produce is distributed in Arizona and northern Mexico within hours, while produce with a longer shelf life can be offered up to hunger-relief agencies further afield. The individual agencies handle the transportation and pay Borderlands two cents per pound—meaning that a trailer full of $70,000 worth of produce can be purchased for $800, and passed along to those in need.

What’s more, the 35-40 million pounds of produce that Borderlands rescues each year may just be the tip of the iceberg. At present Borderlands is working at capacity, but with a bigger warehouse Soto says she could rescue millions more pounds of fresh food each year.

+ Borderlands Food Bank

Via NPR, Huffington Post

Images via Shutterstock (1, 2)