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Guide to Food Recovery and Rescue in Georgia

June 10, 2023

In the U.S., the issue of  food waste has emerged as a significant concern. Approximately 40% of the country's food is wasted annually, while simultaneously, a growing number of Americans grapple with food insecurity and struggle to access nutritious meals. The environmental ramifications of this waste cannot be overlooked either, as it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those emitted by 37 million cars. Furthermore, food waste has substantial economic consequences. Consumers who throw away food are essentially wasting their money, while businesses within the food industry, including farmers, manufacturers, and retailers, suffer from lost revenue and increased production costs.

At Retaaza, we sit at the center of food waste, food insecurity, and greenhouse emissions, forging new connections to reduce all three while creating new economic opportunities. Being a distributor of local food, we buy and sell food everyday so that when a potential waste opportunity arises, we’re able to divert it. In this blog, we’ll discuss the key factors that drive food waste and how we’re refreshing the way we feed communities by rescuing food from local farms.

Defining Food Recovery & Rescue

Food rescue, also known as food recovery, involves collecting or purchasing and then redistributing surplus food that would otherwise go to waste. This food is typically sourced from farms, grocery stores, restaurants, and other food establishments. There can be a number of reasons why food might need to be recovered. For example, at the farm level, a buyer contract might fall through or an item might not fit grocery store standards even though it is still safe and nutritious for consumption. A farmer could also experience a super bloom where they yield more crop than anticipated. If this happens and a farm is at capacity, historically this surplus has been wasted. Other reasons include a farmer’s price being undercut by farmers in neighboring states and harvesting for a variety of weather concerns. Food rescue efforts not only help alleviate hunger by providing those in need with healthy meals, but they also reduce the environmental impacts of food waste, such as greenhouse gas emissions and resource waste, while promoting a more sustainable and equitable food system.

The State of Food Waste in GA

In Georgia, where Retaaza started, over 2 million pounds of food are thrown away and wasted each year. But why do so many waste their food? Of this number, much of it is fruits and vegetables for which farmers are unable to find buyers. Without a buyer, and because a farmer's time and resources are limited, often this food is left to rot in the field or is thrown away. The challenge of solving food waste requires us to think differently about why it is wasted in the first place. In Georgia, 1 out of 9 people currently suffer from food insecurity, including 1 out of every 7 children. However, a 2010 University of Georgia study found that food grown in Georgia would be able to feed its population. Eliminating food waste could provide families in need with life-changing meals. At Retaaza, we’re on a mission to solve this by rethinking the way we connect people to their local food.

Retaaza’s Impact on Food Recovery in Georgia

Our food rescue solutions go so much further than just paying farmers a fair price for their surplus products. We partner with nonprofits to donate food to those in need as well as sell to businesses to provide employees with a consistent supply of fresh, locally-sourced produce. Our newest program, our Retaaza Rx mobile market, now gives Georgians better access to healthy, affordable foods. 

Since beginning operations, we have rescued over 121,000 pounds of food, donating 82,500 pounds of that. We are proud to be an innovative solution to farmers while simultaneously reaching Georgians who are hungry. Helping more in the state gain access to healthy foods is not something we can do alone, however.

Getting Involved

The efforts being made today in food recovery cannot be understated. Though we drive impact mostly through our paid staff, there are innovative organizations all over the country driving solutions to this pervasive issue through their volunteers. 

Often, volunteers serve as the backbone to many critical operations, including sorting and packing the food, distribution, and even advocacy. If being a part of the solution is something that interests you, it has never been more important to get involved. Organizations like Hands On Atlanta, Second Helpings Atlanta, and Feeding Georgia are always on the lookout for volunteers.

FAQs

  1. What is a food recovery program?

    A food recovery program saves perfectly good food that would have been potentially wasted and redistributes it. Food can be recovered from farms, restaurants, grocery stores, events, etc. 
  2. How does food recovery work?

    For Retaaza, when a farmer has surplus they give us a call. We gather basic information about the food then play matchmaker to figure out the best home for it. We then handle all aspects of pickup and delivery of that food. Food recovery can look different by organization. For example, Second Helpings has a fleet of volunteers they deploy to recover food from donors like grocery stores. Volunteer drivers use their personal vehicle to pick up donations then transport and deliver the food to a partner agency.
  3. What does a food recovery network do?

    A food recovery network is an organization or network that aims to reduce food waste and alleviate hunger by recovering surplus food from various sources and redistributing it to those in need.

    For Retaaza, we have created a new network, sitting in the middle of it, serving as a connector. We purchase surplus food from farmers then transport it to one of our many partners, selling to customers or donating it. Our model ensures surplus food is rescued and directed towards those who can benefit from it. This solution simultaneously reduces food waste, fights hunger in our communities, and reduces greenhouse emissions.
  4. What is the food recovery hierarchy?

    The food recovery hierarchy is a framework developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that outlines the preferred approaches for managing food waste and surplus food in order to reduce waste and maximize resource efficiency. The hierarchy prioritizes the various methods of handling food waste based on their environmental, social, and economic impacts.

    The goal of the food recovery hierarchy is to promote sustainable and responsible practices for managing food waste, emphasize the importance of prevention, redistribute to people in need, and efficiently use resources. By following this hierarchy, organizations and individuals can make informed decisions and reduce the environmental and social impacts associated with food waste.

Conclusion

In conclusion, food waste is a pressing issue that requires a creative approach from all of us to solve. There are many organizations working in tandem, solving pieces of the larger issue. Caring about food waste is crucial for addressing hunger, reducing environmental impact, and saving money. By taking actions to reduce food waste at the individual, community, and systemic levels, we can make a significant difference in creating a more sustainable and equitable food system.

To help combat the issue, Retaaza is on a mission to rescue fresh, locally-sourced produce from farms that would normally go to waste and redistribute it to the community. To learn more about Retaaza, visit our website. You can also check out our blog to learn more about food rescue and how we’re creating a holistic solution that benefits all. To get in touch with a member of our team, contact us today.

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