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The USDA estimates that each year, America wastes 20 percent of its food supply. But if we saved that food before it hit the landfills, we could feed 49 million Americans annually.
DC Central Kitchen has been fighting food waste by recovering leftover food and converting it into meals for our hungry and at-risk neighbors for more than two decades. We now recycle more than three tons of surplus products from major food service corporations each day.
In 2011, DC Central Kitchen recovered 816,000 pounds of food, and distributed approximately 1.86 million meals to its partner agencies in the DC metropolitan area.
Though donated food has long been essential to our operations, our biggest single expense is purchasing supplementary ingredients that turn donations into balanced meals. In 2008 we addressed this challenge by initiating partnerships with local farmers. To date, we have procured hundreds of thousands of pounds of misshapen or blemished produce from local farms, much of which would have otherwise gone to waste.
While our produce costs are down, we are offering growers higher prices than they receive from large processing companies and saving them money on packaging and distribution. As Toigo Orchards and Farms owner Mark Toigo praised the program in a recent Washington Post article, “As a farm operator, I want to see a greater return. This earns us more money and it costs[the kitchen] less…That’s better business.”
Our fresh approach to recycling food is helping us to combat waste in our city – and under our own roof.
Among our many partnerships essential to the Food Recycling program’s success, we recover leftover lunch food from private grade schools, surplus barbecue from Smokey Glen Farm, extra crops from the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network, and excess fresh produce from FRESHFARM Markets.
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