Move For Hunger Kicks Off Their Fresh Food Initiatives with Big Transports in California, Ohio, and New Jersey
Over the past 12 years since Move For Hunger’s founding, the organization has focused mostly on transporting donated non-perishable food to local food banks across the country. In the timespan, our network of 1,000+ movers has delivered over 20 million meals to those in need.
But that was just the beginning.
Last year, there was story after story of unused crops going to waste in the field for a variety of reasons. At the same time, 42 million people struggle with food insecurity including people in the same farming community. In an effort to match the increased need, Move For Hunger is expanding its scope and launching a new initiative into fresh and perishable food. It kicked off this summer with a handful of large transports with new partners, The Farmlink Project and America’s Grow-a-Row.
Starting back in June in California, Move For Hunger has helped deliver nearly 23,000 pounds (19,000 meals) of potatoes, squash, broccoli, oranges, corn, and much more to the Hollywood Food Coalition in Los Angeles. Through a new collaboration with Farmlink, we were able to connect the farmers to the local food banks. Farmlink’s mission matches perfectly with ours -- trying to eliminate food waste by finding unused food and getting into the hands of people that need it most.
Beltmann Relocation Group of Los Angeles, a northAmerican Van Lines agent, and REAL RocknRoll Movers transported all of the food. Beltman’s Los Angeles office joined Move For Hunger back in 2012, while REAL RocknRoll Movers joined a little more recently in 2017. They have both since delivered close to 20,000 meals each.
Fresh food deliveries aren’t just happening on the West Coast, Move For Hunger is exploring opportunities nationwide to see where food needs to be recovered and transport it to local hunger relief agencies.
In New Jersey, we started working with America’s Grow-a-Row, a nonprofit organization that uses volunteers for planting, picking, rescuing, and delivering free fresh produce. The new partnership between our organizations has yielded over 128,000 meals and was transported by Lowy’s Moving Service.
The Wheaton World Wide Van Lines agent was the very first member of the Mover For Hunger transportation network and has been leading the charge to help deliver the food. They’ve been invaluable to feeding hungry families since 2009 and have transported over half a million meals as part of the Move For Hunger program.
As part of our new fresh food efforts, Lowy’s picked up the produce from America’s Grow-A-Row location in Pittstown twice a week and delivered to agencies in Morris-Plains, Paterson, Orange, Newark, and Red Bank, New Jersey. With the new partnership with America’s Grow-a-Row, MEND Hunger Relief Network, Interfaith Food Pantry, the Center of United Methodist Aid to the Community, Lunch Break, and a few other hunger relief agencies have been on the receiving end of the donated fresh produce.
Move For Hunger’s fresh food initiatives are growing from the ground up. We have hired a new team member, Jackie Godlewski, to help spearhead and grow not only the amount of food rescued, but also the type of food rescued, and how we rescue the food including adding the services of refrigerated trucks.
“One thing is clear, there is a lot of opportunity to rescue and transport food in our country,” said Jackie. “It's exciting to see a challenge sprout into an idea, grow into an actionable concept, and then blossom into a viable impactful solution. It takes a lot of time, collaboration, thinking outside the box, and logistical perseverance, but the results are so worth it!”
Weather and COVID have proven to be tricky obstacles in getting the initiative started. A substantially hot or wet season can impact the yield to be harvested by farms and gleaners. For example, recent severe flooding caused by Ida in New Jersey interfered with gleaning and transport operations of a recent truck share pilot. COVID is also still having an impact on volunteer gleaner participation, and it has created a shortage of truck drivers nationwide.
On top of that, movers had a very busy summer with high business demand and a shortage of drivers, limiting their ability to fully engage in all the food rescue opportunities.
“The key here has been flexibility and communication,” Jackie continued. “Despite our best efforts, there are always unexpected circumstances, but good communication and agility by all parties have made for some very successful transports. Some agencies were nervous about committing to two full pallets of fresh produce, wondering how efficiently they could get it distributed. But they were pleasantly surprised at the freshness of the produce and how quickly it went out the door. One agency is considering starting a farmer's market outside their doors for the local community during harvest season. It's all about getting healthy nutritious food to the tables of the hungry.”
Consistency is key to a beneficial relationship, and Move For Hunger has partnered with Last Mile Food Rescue and the Freestore Food Bank, both in Cincinnati, on a weekly food transport that started last month with the help of Bell Moving and Storage, a Wheaton agent. The food is donated by the Castellini Group of Companies and is transported to the Freestore Food Bank in downtown Cincinnati. The food contains all healthy, fresh food that can be hard to come by at a food bank or what may be too expensive at the grocery store - berries, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, watermelon, and squash.
Access to fresh food is so important because many of those who are food insecure don’t have a local grocery store which can classify the area as a food desert. People residing in rural areas and urban communities with a large minority population have a higher likelihood of living in a food desert. Since fresh, healthy food can be very hard to come by, the residents often rely on cheaper food which is normally not as nutritious and can lead to a variety of health problems.
We continue to expand our offerings because the need continues to grow. 5 million more people are now considered food insecure since 2019 for a total of 42 million Americans including 1 in 6 children. While these people go to bed hungry every night, over $400 billion worth of food gets thrown away every year in the United States (roughly 2% of the country’s GDP)
If Move For Hunger has something to say about it, both of the numbers. “We are very excited about creating a cold storage solution in Rhode Island to help rescue fresh fish for local food banks,” said Jackie. “We're looking for similar opportunities such as providing temporary cold storage to farms during harvest season, or centralizing cold storage for multiple agencies, struggling with refrigeration resources, to share.
With Thanksgiving approaching, Move For Hunger is also partnering with several food banks to transport turkeys to larger agencies.
“As we continue to partner with hunger relief agencies across the country and identify more opportunities for food rescue,” Jackie went on to say. “It is clear we need to forge partnerships with companies specializing in refrigerated transports. The ability to reach out to cold chain partners will substantially widen our rescue options. Movers are most receptive to rescues they can schedule a week or more out. However, businesses that specialize in refrigerated transports tend to prefer last-minute rescues, making this a great compliment to our existing partners' strengths.”
With the new foray into fresh and perishable food, we hope to end hunger one small bite at a time. You can support and join in our mission by donating (every $10 helps feed 25 people), or click here if you’re in need of food transportation assistance or would like to talk to our team about any perishable food donations.
“We are very excited about the impact we are making and will continue to make, reducing food waste and fighting hunger in our communities.”
Read more about the environmental impact of food waste here.