By Laurie Szostak
Hunger, here in our bountiful region? It may be hard to imagine, but it’s true. While 40 percent of the food produced in this country is wasted, one in 10 of our Hudson Valley neighbors is hungry. With increasing awareness of these challenges, a new regional solution is coming to the fore.
FeedHV—as in, Feed Hudson Valley—provides a free and easy-to-use web and mobile application for rescuing food. “Food rescue” is the process of recovering leftover, unused or unserved foods in edible condition that would otherwise go to waste from retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, growers or dining halls and distributing it to local emergency feeding programs. Often the food is near the “sell by” date, or has surface blemishes that make it undesirable for retail sale.
The idea for this technological solution first came up in 2016. In conversations with food producers, volunteers and feeding agencies, regional grant maker Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley (CFHV) learned that feeding efforts faced logistical challenges. “Building on the efforts of our Farm Fresh Food Initiative, we asked our partners what they needed to better fulfill their mission of feeding the community. In that dialogue, they shared that donations were being lost due to inefficiencies in the transportation network,” said March Gallagher, President and CEO of CFHV. “With this insight, we were able to work with generous foundations and individuals to invest in software that would streamline deliveries, minimize waste and address hunger.”
In the fall of 2017, CFHV launched the FeedHV app, powered by ChowMatch. Using a simple matching technology, the app links donors of prepared but unserved food and produce with food-assistance programs (such as food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters) through a network of volunteers who gather, harvest, transport and process donated food. The app is run by Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC), which shares a similar regional footprint as well as robust relationships with both farms and chefs specializing in Hudson Valley–sourced food products.
Carrie Jones Ross, in her role of Food Security Development Manager for HVADC and with a background in local and regional hunger alleviation, serves as the program administrator of FeedHV. In getting the app (and the food) rolling, she has been traveling throughout the region educating donors, volunteers and agencies alike. Of the key talking points, she notes that safety and liability are of the utmost importance. Covered by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, as well as system-wide food safety guidelines, the app ensures both the quality of food rescued and minimized risk for all participants.
To date, the app has more than 128 registered volunteers, 66 donors and 58 agencies. Over 130 food runs have moved 31,910 pounds of food. “FeedHV really shows the values and strength of our community. Each person, each business, and each nonprofit who participates is part of the solution to the dual problems of food waste and hunger,” said Jones Ross. “People are really excited to be using the app—and we are thrilled to see how everyone working together is truly making a difference.”