In-Field Food Waste: read more below
Recovery from Supply Chains for Use in Food Donation Programs
The Food and Agribusiness Institute is researching the extent of food losses and waste in northern California, with support from the Bank of America Foundation. The focus of the research will be on identifying the potential to salvage fresh vegetable and fruit produce that currently does not enter the food chain. Previous studies of food waste have highlighted food waste at the retail and consumer level, because the initial concern was to reduce the volumes of waste that were transported to urban land-fill sites. However, fresh produce marketing standards in the USA are stringent, and result in rejection of large volumes of edible food that would be good to eat, but does not fit size, shape, surface blemish or discoloration specifications. Large volumes of sub-standard produce are plowed in or diverted as low-value animal feed. The on-farm losses have largely been ignored in most other studies of food waste.
Prior studies have not attempted to collect data on farm-level losses for individual vegetable or fruit species. FAI student researchers will be exploring the extent to which avoidable loss and waste occurs for the each of the highest volume produce items, such as lettuce, berries, tomatoes, apples, grapes, citrus, potatoes, onions, sweet corn, sweet peppers, broccoli, melons, carrots, stone fruit, avocados, cabbage and spinach. They will contact many growers in Santa Clara and six other nearby counties that are major fresh produce supply sources to obtain data on which to develop their estimates. Farm visits, phone interviews and targeted questionnaire mailings will be used to ensure that a large sample of farmers are contacted, and that robust conclusions are reached in this study.
The research will focus on developing detailed numerical data on food harvest disposal volumes and percentages for key fresh produce items. This is intended to establish a model for further investigation in other geographies. The purposes are to:
- identify priority supply shortfalls of fresh produce items at Food Banks,
- research the extent of on-farm waste and loss for these items, crop by crop,
- assess what proportion of this volume is salvageable for human consumption (i.e. currently discarded for cosmetic rather than substantive defects),
- propose cost-effective methods of procuring salvaged products for needy families.