Second Chance Foods: Reducing Waste and Hunger Locally
Jun 30, 2016 01:37PM
Ask any urban American eight-year-old where their food comes from and you will get a quick response: the grocery store. Thanks to the unprecedented efficiency of food production and distribution in the U.S., Americans tend to take their food for granted, leaving it in the refrigerator to rot and buying much more than we can possibly eat. This tendency has resulted in record levels of food waste, something that Executive Director of Second Chance Foods Inc. Alison Jolicoeur takes very seriously. “I was inspired after watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO. He did an in-depth segment on food waste and I was blown away when I learned that 40 percent of the food produced in this country ended up in the garbage,” she says. “I was truly inspired to take action and become a part of the solution.”
Jolicoeur’s solution was to create Second Chance Foods Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing healthy unsold, unserved and aesthetically imperfect food and distributing it in an effort to reduce food waste and hunger. “We work to recover food from the waste stream and upcycle it back into the distribution stream,” explains Jolicoeur. “We pick up food from grocery stores, farms and other purveyors and distribute it directly to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. We are currently operating in southern Dutchess and northern Westchester counties.”
Hunger is not the only ethical issue associated with food waste. There are serious environmental consequences to tossing out so much food.
While a 40 percent food waste rate is a disturbing reality, the number grows even more daunting when the hunger rate in the U.S. is taken into consideration. “One in six Americans is foodinsecure, which is really a politically correct and watered-down way of saying they’re hungry. They don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That is 50 million people in our country that are hungry, including more than 15 million children,” contends Jolicoeur. “Reducing food waste by only 15 percent would provide enough food to feed 25 million people in the U.S. each year, half of the estimated number of hungry people in our country.”
Hunger is not the only ethical issue associated with food waste. There are serious environmental consequences to tossing out so much food. “Landfills have been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency to be the largest source of methane gas and a large portion of the organic waste in landfills is, in fact, food waste,” Jolicoeur says.
The environmental cost doesn’t stop with landfills. She explains, “We are disconnected from the whole process—all of the resources that go into the production of food: the water, the human power, the gasoline for transportation and electricity for refrigeration. And then there is the bigger picture: the sunlight, the moonlight, the rain, the nutrients in the soil and the animals—it’s all wasted when we throw away food.”
Jolicoeur emphasizes the financial loss associated with wasting food as well. “When you throw away food, you are also throwing away money and, for many, that will be the greatest motivating factor,” she says.
We pick up food from grocery stores, farms and other purveyors and distribute it directly to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. We are currently operating in southern Dutchess and northern Westchester counties.
In her work at Second Chance Foods Inc., Jolicoeur attempts to alleviate the environmental, financial and human cost associated with the high rate of discarded food in this country but she can only do so much. She encourages individuals and families to conserve food in their homes using simple, common-sense suggestions. “One simple tip is to utilize your freezer. If you see there are leftovers that you aren’t going to get to in time, simply freeze them,” she suggests. “Having a clear menu plan when shopping and sticking to it can be helpful, as well as purchasing food for a couple of days rather than the whole week.”
In addition to running Second Chance Foods Inc., Jolicoeur is also a health coach. This has made her a passionate advocate for healthy food choices and connecting with the source of food. “What we eat, we become,” she explains. “Our food is the information that makes up our cells. We need to remember that we are connected to our food and the earth and to each other. When we really connect with that truth, perhaps we will value our food more and waste less.”
Second Chance Foods is currently raising money to purchase its first refrigerated truck to help make food stretch further. “We will continue to work daily and weekly to expand our network of donors and recipients so we can rescue more food and feed more people,” says Jolicoeur. “As a country, food waste is one problem I know we can solve if we raise awareness and take action by supporting organizations that are addressing the issue, either financially or by volunteering and committing on a personal level to reducing waste in the home. Together we can make a difference.”