COVID-19 is ravaging people on reservation lands of the Southwest. Infrastructure shortages such as electricity and hospital beds make matters worse and federal aid has been very slow. There are a number of things that can help in this struggle against the virus; and a vital one is food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables with the nutrients and vitamins needed to help keep people healthy and raise immune system levels. A large quantity of fresh surplus food is available, but funding and procurement work is needed. That is where Forager can help. In the last two months, we have successfully coordinated and facilitated the delivery of 47,000 pounds of fresh food into the Navajo Nation. That effort was funded by a one-time grant from ReFED’s COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund.
There are fresh fruits and vegetables coming in daily from a port city on the Arizona/Mexico border and some of this produce is surplus meaning it no longer has a buyer and so could end in a landfill if not donated. We want to continue the important work of bringing this fresh food to native communities hit so hard by the pandemic, but are in need of funding to pay for the transport of such food; and so we need your help to make it happen.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? HOW CAN WE HELP
The reservation lands in the Southwestern United States are experiencing an overwhelming outbreak of COVID-19. In May, the Navajo Nation surpassed New York and New Jersey as the location with the highest infection rate per capita in the US. In addition, many in this community lack access to grocery stores. On the Navajo Nation, there are only 13 stores to serve nearly 175,00 people. Not only this but the distance from certain communities to a grocery that carries fruit and vegetables can make it almost impossible to purchase them on a regular basis. Further, there are strict lock downs which are occurring to quell the spread of COVID-19 and these begin at 8pm and last until 5am, except on weekends when the lockdown lasts 72 hours, from 8pm Friday until 5am Monday. This makes it even harder for people to get to the store. With 30% of homes lacking running water and 10% lacking electricity (on the Navajo Nation), fruit and vegetables are harder to store for long periods of time. And so, we want to bring a regular supply of healthy, hearty, nutritious foods to the people who are battling this virus to help them recover and to support the immune systems of those caring for them.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The food we are obtaining is rescued food. This food, although it could very easily have ended up in your local produce aisle, was excess and was destined for the dump. This country has an overwhelming excess of fresh fruit and vegetables. Every day, truckloads of healthy, beautiful produce is dumped into landfills, not because of quality issues of any sort but because of the excess and a lack of market.
Hunger-relief organizations pick up this food and transport it to those in need. While the food is donated, it must be transported at some cost. However, taking these costs into account, it is still much more economical to acquire and move food in this way compared to paying regular retail prices or even wholesale distributor prices.
Another benefit of rescuing surplus food is that we are creating a positive environmental impact. By not landfilling these beautiful fruits and veggies, we are saving them from sitting in the dump where they could not biodegrade due to a lack of available oxygen. Further, all the work and CO2 which went into the growing of that food would otherwise have gone to waste.
It is important to note why Forager is the right company to see this effort through. We have experience here and a dedicated team. We have already, in the last two months, successfully moved two loads of surplus fresh fruit and vegetables to the Navajo Nation, totaling over 47,000 pounds. Further, we have connections within the reservations and we have multiple sources of available surplus food. We were even featured in The New York Times for these successes.
Forager has a dedicated coordinator of surplus food programs, who has a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development and experience coordinating these and other surplus food moves. The organizations which will be receiving the funds- i.e., those that are getting the food and transporting it- are even more experienced: some have done this sort of work for decades and have relationships formed with trucking agencies. A very small portion of the fund will go to operating and administrative costs at Forager for coordination efforts, these costs are minimal.
We hope that you are able to donate to this amazing cause and we will be updating with each food movement along the way. As soon as we get enough funding for a truckload to go, we will be sending her out!
- Sarah E Brehmer
- Dotty Clay
- Sarah E Brehmer
- Jason Frantz
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