The Department of Agriculture has announced its plans to buy surplus food waste worth $300 million every month from farmers. This purchase will be distributed to food banks across the United States to forestall the difficulties farmers are facing in disposing of the excess food production. The inability to sell farm produce to restaurants, hotels, and schools has prompted farmers to destroy millions of eggs and flush milk down the drain.
Several community groups and college students have tried to salvage the situation by collecting unsold eggs, onions, meat, vegetables, and fruits for onward distribution to food banks and charitable groups, yet their efforts to appropriate many of these food items are not enough to prevent wastage from farmers who had to destroy the excess food.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is working with Chobani, Hood, and Cabot among other major milk farmers to buy the excess farm milk and convert them into cheese, yogurt, and butter. Almost a quarter of a million gallons of milk has been donated to food banks by the Dairy Farmers of America – the largest dairy cooperative in the US – with cooperative senior vice president Jackie Klippenstein said the effort was “just a drop in the bucket, but we had to do something.”
While the lockdown continues nationwide, farmers are left with innumerable food items that cannot be sold to restaurants, hotels, and schools which remain shut. Analysts said the last time such large amounts of food items went to massive waste nationwide was during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The dairy cooperative disclosed that farmers in early April drained about 3.7 million gallons of milk per day into manure pits to mix with farm fertilizer. With Papa John’s and other restaurant chains agreeing to increase the amount of cheese in pizzas, the amount of milk waste per day has scaled down to 1.5 million gallons even as farmers have also reduced production.
It is not only dairy farmers that are having to drain excess milk production, but vegetable growers are also worried that their product is going to waste since there are no new markets where they could be sold. A number of students started FarmLink, a website, to reach farmers and collect surplus food for onward distribution to food banks. The group rented a large truck and then collected 50,000 onions that were to be destroyed in Oregon and moved them to food banks in Los Angeles; they also purchased 10,000 eggs from a California farm for donation to another food bank.