There Are Ways To Help The Hungry

Michigan Musings

Forgotten Harvest was formed in 1990 to fight two problems: hunger and waste.

Published on: January 7, 2014

I'll admit it, I'm frugal. Maybe a kinder way to say that is I'm thrifty. Not necessarily because I have to be, but because I hate waste… of all kinds. I know it's the way I was brought up. I can still hear my mom saying, "Don't stand there with the refrigerator door open," or "get cleaned up quickly and get out of the shower," or "if you're cold, put another sweatshirt on," or, the ultimate, "eat all that you take on your plate."

We were not poor or destitute, but those were her values, which became mine.

I know in the food production system there is bound to be waste – in the field, in transport, at the retail level and in the home. It's inevitable. But, just how much is wasted and for what reasons are controllable and frankly, Americans are horrible in keeping this to a minimal. A recent trip to a major Michigan big box store (I'll leave this to your imagination – but it wasn't WalMart) underlined this travesty. As I was shopping for ground chuck, I noticed several – we're talking about 20 packages – red-stickered with a 20% discount. The "sell-by date" was tomorrow. I have no problem taking a deal and either cooking it up in the next day or two or throwing it into the freezer. I tossed five 1.5-pound packages in my cart and about that time a lady with a multi-leveled dolly rolled up next to me.

She started loading up these red-stickered packages. I asked what she was doing with them. She said they were being removed to be disposed of. "How?" I asked.  And, while she didn't provide details, she did say  it would not go for human consumption – the store was not allowed to sell it for food. I asked why not mark it down to 50%, as there was nothing wrong with this meat and a deep discount might appeal to someone hungry but unable to afford meat. Apparently, it is store policy for the largest discount to be 20%. This just made me shake my head, as I grabbed three more packages.

It's not just about meat. At my favorite produce store – I will not go to west Lansing without stopping here – I recently purchased a giant bag of yellow bell peppers for a significant sale price because they had either minor bruises or were getting a little soft. Hats off to this store for giving deep discounts to keep this product out of landfills. But, I know that much more gets simply tossed. When I got home, I cut out the bad spots, diced up the rest and threw them into the freezer.

To go even a step further, I'm not too proud to tell you I was given a portion of a 50-pound bag of deer carrots – thanks mom – and I proceeded to peel and chop them up. After a quick blanching, into the freezer they went, and when I serve them, you'll never know they were destined to be deer feed. They're carrots, just not perfect carrots. On my table, deer feed just became part of dinner.

This brings me to talking about an organization at the forefront of recognizing the potential in serving the starving, underprivileged and even those who simply don't have access to food with what might otherwise been thrown away.

That big box store didn't have to throw away that meat. But, apparently it is their policy despite the protection the law allows from liability to donate it. And, several other stores do – enter Forgotten Harvest.

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