23 Organizations Eliminating Food Waste During COVID-19
By Aaron Mok
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended nearly every aspect of modern society, but especially the food system. Farmers are being forced to discard unprecedented amounts of food surplus because of the closure of schools, restaurants, and hotels. And, because of the complex logistics of the food supply chain, diverting food supply away from wholesalers directly into the hands of consumers can be costly. Experts like Dana Gunders from ReFED are concerned that more food waste will be produced in 2020 than in previous years.
Despite these challenges, organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste. In honor of Stop Food Waste Day on the 29th of April, Food Tank is highlighting 23 organizations and companies trying to eliminate pandemic-fueled food waste.
1. AgriMax (Europe)
Funded by the European Union, AgriMax is a food waste recovery project that converts crop and food processing waste into organic compounds through biorefinery. These compounds can be used in food packaging, food ingredients, and agricultural chemicals. Additionally, AgriMax recently launched an online platform that connects crop producers to biorefineries in Spain and Italy to generate profits from waste. AgriMax also promotes educational webinars on the bioeconomy, and offers tips to help people recycle household food waste.
2. Binghamton Food Rescue (BFR) (United States)
Binghamton Food Rescue (BFR) collects perishable food waste and redistributes it as packaged meals and groceries to food-insecure communities in the city of Binghamton, New York. Over 21,319 kilograms (47,000 pounds) of food have been rescued since the organization's inception. The organization is encouraging community members to report local food waste so they can pick up and re-purpose it. BFR also collects food donations and delivers them to around 100 households per week.
3. Brothers Produce (United States)
Brothers Produce is the largest Texas-based food and beverage distributor, supplying goods to retailers in Texas and Louisiana. In response to the pandemic, Brothers Produce has developed a new business model where boxes of fresh produce are sold directly to customers instead of companies. This ensures that food surplus that would otherwise be thrown away is redistributed and helps to keep the business afloat.
4. City Harvest (United States)
As the world's first food rescue program, New York-based City Harvest is responding to COVID-19 by rescuing perishable produce. The organization aims to feed New York City's food insecure communities by redistributing food waste and providing educational programming. Despite the closure of over 85 of its food programs, City Harvest is still committed to feeding those in need. The organization has opened seven emergency relief sites for New York's food insecure communities, and 22 more relief sites are on their way.
5. Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and Farmers Guild (United States)
Based in California, The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and Farmers Guild is a nonprofit striving to build a more sustainable food system. To do so, they engage in political advocacy and develop grassroots programs to empower farmers and local communities. To eliminate the food surplus in California's food system, CAFF works with farmers to redirect their food supply away from their usual commercial customers and into the hands of consumers. Additionally, CAFF created a spreadsheet designed to connect the state's food surplus to consumers.
6. Compass Group (United Kingdom)
Operating in over 50 countries, Compass Group is the biggest food service company globally. In response to COVID-19, Compass Group UK partnered with food recovery organizations and food safety experts to create a plan to distribute food surplus to nonprofit organizations across the United Kingdom. Within 3 weeks of the plan's inception, around 60,000 meals were donated to more than 30 national nonprofits and local relief organizations.
7. Divert (United States)
Divert is a technology company that uses data to inform solutions to minimize food waste from the retail supply chain. Divert currently partners with supermarket chain Giant to recycle perishable foods. Perishable food is removed from the supply chain and repurposed to generate clean energy. Divert also recycles all food waste that cannot go to food banks.
8. Edible York: The Abundance Project (United Kingdom)
Located in the United Kingdom, Edible York is an NGO that aims to build a healthier York community through edible gardening and horticultural workshops. The organization runs a program titled "Abundance" that collects surplus fruit that would inevitably end up in a landfill. Volunteers then redistribute the fruit to the York community. Volunteers also rescue potatoes and deliver them to the most vulnerable people and families impacted by pandemic. Additionally, Edible York is providing information on farms that have remained open for business.
9. The Felix Project (United Kingdom)
Based in London, The Felix Project is a nonprofit that collects fresh food thrown away by wholesalers, and delivers it to charities and schools. As the pandemic creates a spike in the demand from food banks in London, The Felix Project is expanding their deliveries to emergency food hubs, homeless shelters, churches and hospitals. Through these steps, they ensure that London's most vulnerable communities are fed.
10. Food Aid Foundation (Malaysia)
Malaysia-based food recovery nonprofit Food Aid Foundation distributes supply chain food surplus among the country's most vulnerable populations. They have carried out emergency food relief efforts in Malaysian neighborhoods such as Alor, Setar, Ipoh, and Penang. The organization receives donations from renowned Asian chefs such as Alex Chong, and partners with major food conglomerates like Captain Oats and Indofood to fund their initiatives.
11. Food for Soul (Italy)
Based in Italy, Food for Soul is a self-proclaimed cultural project that recovers imperfect foods from landfills in countries ranging from France to Brazil, and repurposes them into meals for the homeless, refugees, and other vulnerable communities. Seeking creative ways to encourage food waste reduction, Founder and Italian chef Massimo Bottura hosts a family-friendly Instagram cooking show that teaches viewers how to repurpose household food waste into meals.
12. Food Recovery Network (FRN) (United States)
Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a nonprofit led by college students who collect campus food waste and donate it to local nonprofits, churches, and other community organizations. FRN operates on 230 college campuses across America. Despite mass college campus closures, over 30 student chapters continue to rescue food waste. And since the beginning of the pandemic, several companies have donated their food surplus left by business closures and event cancellations. FRN also created a logistical resource guide that includes information on ways individuals and businesses can reduce their food waste.
13. FruPro (United Kingdom)
Launched in response to the pandemic, FruPro is a London-based online platform that connects major foodservice and catering suppliers to independent retailers to eliminate losses in the food supply chain. Since FruPro's launch, 36,741 packages of fresh produce have been delivered, feeding around 500,000 people. FruPro is also developing a plan to distribute food to local nonprofits and food banks.
14. The Harvard Law School Food Law And Policy Clinic (FLPC) (United States)
Directed by Emily Broad Lieb, Harvard Law Schools' Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is leading an emergency COVID-19 response effort to inform the public the pandemic's impact on food systems. The response includes informational resources analyzing opportunities for low-cost home food delivery. It also includes policy briefings urging Congress and the USDA to take legislative action to mitigate the pandemic's burden on the food system and its workers.
15. Imperfect Foods (United States)
Operating in 43 states, the San-Francisco based company, Imperfect Foods, aims to eliminate food waste by collecting blemished food rejected by grocery stores. They then redistribute it in customizable boxes to customers. As a result of COVID-19, delivery services face delays due to an increase in demand and a decrease in staff. Nonetheless, Imperfect Foods' Twitter offers daily tips on how to lower household food waste.
16. Mesa Brasil SESC (Brazil)
Mesa Brasil SESC is a Brazilian food bank network whose objective is to reduce national food waste by redistributing food surplus to food insecure Brazilian communities. Mesa Brasil's network contains over 1100 companies that include supermarkets, restaurants, and food service distributors. According to their Facebook page, "Mesa Brazil is acting with full force to combat the effects of the pandemic among the most vulnerable populations." As of April 1st, they had donated over 23,500 kilograms (52,000 pounds) of food to 148 charity organizations across the country.
17. Move for Hunger (United States)
If food is discarded during one's relocation process, Move for Hunger is available to collect and donate it to food banks. The organization connects people who are moving with a moving company to coordinate a pick up time for non-perishable food items. The service operates across the United States and parts of Canada. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Move for Hunger has expanded its operational efforts, delivering food to food banks faster than ever before.
18. Planet Food: The Real Junk Food Project York (United Kingdom)
Based in the United Kingdom, Planet Food York is a nonprofit that recovers food that would end up in a landfill. The food is then sold at their "pay-as-you-feel" food store. In the face of COVID-19, Planet Food York is partnering with local churches and food banks to deliver bags of food to the community. The food ranges from fresh produce to chocolate Easter eggs.
19. ReFED (United States)
ReFED is a U.S.- based consortium that seeks to discover policy solutions to end food waste. The organization has published numerous educational resources on the ways people can get involved to combat food waste. ReFED also hosts a weekly interactive webinar series titled "Better Together: Food System Best Practices for Navigating COVID-19" every Wednesday at 3PM EST which focuses on specific food system challenges and potential solutions.
20. Replate (United States)
Operating in more than 300 U.S. cities, Replate is a nonprofit comprised of professional drivers known as "food rescuers" who collect surplus meals from businesses and distribute them to vulnerable communities. By partnering with Beyond Meat and DoorDash during the pandemic, Replate is able to provide fresh, nutritious meals to frontline workers and food insecure communities.
21. Rock and Wrap It Up (United States)
Rock and Wrap It Up is a New York-based anti-poverty organization that works to divert excess food from stadiums, companies, and other commercial enterprises towards food banks and veterans. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rock and Wrap it Up has collected thousands of pounds worth of food from Madison Square Garden and MetLife Stadium. As of early April, film and TV partners have donated over 2,000 additional pounds of food.
22. Second Harvest (Canada)
Second Harvest is Canada's largest food rescue organization. Second Harvest recently committed CAD$4.5 million dollars (USD $3.2 million) towards local charities and nonprofits that distribute surplus food to food insecure Canadians. The organization currently accepts food donations from companies such as Loblaw, Starbucks, and Sysco, and is working to partner with farms and smaller community stores
23. Winnow (United Kingdom)
Winnow is a technology company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce food waste in commercial kitchens. Winnow's Waste Monitor System, a food waste tracker, is used by chefs in more than 40 countries. Additionally, Winnow Vision is a system of cameras pointed at garbage bins that collects data on food waste. Through AI, Winnow has saved over USD $42 million dollars in food purchasing costs.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?<p>Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.</p><p>Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108" target="_blank">combating viral infection and modulating the immune response</a>.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184976" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In another study</a>, mice were fed <em>Lactobacillus</em> bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The <em>Lactobacillus</em>-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with <em>Lactobacillus</em> protects against different <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04638" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subtypes of</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17487-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">influenza</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">virus</a> and human respiratory syncytial virus – the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39602-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children</a>.</p>
Chronic Disease and Microbes<p>Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.</p><p>In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immune cells</a> that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1002601107" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">babies delivered by cesarean section</a>, individuals consuming a poor <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diet</a> and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elderly</a>.</p><p>In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them</a>. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.</p><p>Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.</p><p>Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, <a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/melody-trial-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my lab studies show how diet can be used</a> as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.</p><p>A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Old age</a> and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p><p><a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease</a>, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6933e1.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19</a> compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/blacks-in-britain-are-four-times-as-likely-to-die-of-coronavirus-as-whites-data-show/2020/05/07/2dc76710-9067-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in Britain</a>.</p>
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p><p>My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates <a href="https://theconversation.com/exercise-may-help-reduce-risk-of-deadly-covid-19-complication-ards-136922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acute respiratory distress syndrome</a>.</p><p>Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fatal overreaction of the immune response</a> called a <a href="https://theconversation.com/blocking-the-deadly-cytokine-storm-is-a-vital-weapon-for-treating-covid-19-137690" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cytokine storm</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that causes an uncontrolled flood</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of immune cells into the lungs</a>. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">severe lung injury and multiorgan failures</a> that lead to death.</p><p>Several studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2020.08.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">described in one recent review</a> have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.</p><p>To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.05.20249061" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">We demonstrated</a>, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em>– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> has been associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.05.035" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61172-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammation</a>.</p><p><em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an <em>E. faecalis</em> test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.</p><p>But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.11.416180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells</a> called <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12170" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance</a>.</p><p>Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the <a href="https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.30916.001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proper activation</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of those T-regulatory</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nri.2016.36" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cells</a>. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.</p><p>As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ana-maldonado-contreras-1152969" target="_blank">Ana Maldonado-Contreras</a> is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-healthy-microbiome-builds-a-strong-immune-system-that-could-help-defeat-covid-19-145668" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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