Each year in the United States, over 160 billion pounds of food is wasted. Un-harvested food crops account for about twenty billion pounds of this waste, with vegetable crops accounting for about 18%. In Wisconsin, growers and processors of vegetables are actively working to cut food waste on the farm by diverting excess production to area food banks to help feed the hungry. This is hard to achieve with large volumes of fresh produce which has a limited shelf life but, in a unique partnership with the Field to Food Bank program, Wisconsin’s processing vegetable industry, ranked 1st in the US, is helping to fill local food pantries with quality canned vegetables. “Being able to address ‘the last mile’ in food delivery is critically important to get food to those who need it “says Jed Colquhoun, from the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, “and our food processing industry has led the way in making it happen.”
Carrots became the first success story in 2011 when an unusually high yield led to 40 acres of excess carrots for a grower in central Wisconsin. The grower donated the carrots to Field to Food Bank, and the industry quickly united to solve the logistical hurdles—a harvester was found with trucks to move the crop to a nearby processing plant, cans were donated, and 450,000 pounds of delicious carrots were on their way to hungry families across the state. Field to Food Bank has now expanded to include sweet corn, snap beans, potatoes, and onions with the Wisconsin vegetable growers and processors becoming an integral part of this statewide program that provides food to those who need it most.