This time of year, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the season. Spending time with friends and family, celebrating together, and creating new memories are just a few of the simple joys that make it all so special.
However, it’s also a time for reflection. It’s a time to be grateful for all the blessings and opportunities that have come our way over the past twelve months and the hope for even better things in the year to come.
Part of what makes the spirit of the season so unique is the way it gets us to think beyond ourselves and consider how we can better help those less fortunate.
Unfortunately, according to recently released data from the USDA, the numbers are rapidly rising when it comes to those suffering from food insecurity. In 2022, 17 million US households reported being food insecure, an increase of over 25% from the 13.5 million households in 2021.
While generosity and donations around the holidays have traditionally provided a reprieve for these families, a survey from Divert Inc., an impact technology company working to turn food waste into renewable energy, suggests this year may be different.
The number one reason for this reduction in giving was the increase in food and grocery prices. In fact, 72% of Americans are changing their grocery shopping habits due to inflation and rising food prices.
With the most wonderful time of the year straining the pocketbooks of your average consumer, it’s hard for me to imagine what it is like for the growing number of food-insecure families and individuals.
As a food industry executive, I believe we need to deeply understand what this means for the people facing these challenges and how we, as an industry, can use our collective resources to make hunger a thing of the past.
The great news is we don’t have to wait to make a difference. That’s why, as this year comes to a close, I want to acknowledge the efforts of companies and organizations in our industry that are already writing new stories of hope for many. While this is in no way a comprehensive list, here are a few of the Food Heroes working to eliminate food insecurity in their communities.
Helping lead the charge in fighting hunger in the US, Feeding America has spent the past several decades changing the approach and conversation around food insecurity. Since its founding, they have built up a nationwide network of over 200 food banks and 60,000 meal programs to provide judgment-free access to food for millions of Americans.
Through a multi-faceted approach, in 2022 alone, they worked with farmers and food companies to rescue more than 3.6 billion pounds of food and groceries that would have otherwise gone to waste. Additionally, that same year, the Feeding America network distributed an incredible 5.2 billion meals nationwide.
Where Feeding America shows us the power of non-profit organizations, our next Food Hero shows how industry leaders can join them in the fight against food insecurity.
Keeping with the holiday spirit, this past November, UK-based 2 Sisters Food Group announced a “ground-breaking” partnership with retailer M&S and charity Fareshare to donate one million meals for those in need heading into the Christmas holiday.
This unique initiative stands out because the donated meals aren’t from waste or surplus but fresh “bespoke” M&S branded meals that will also bear their “gold standard” seal for health and nutrition.
The meals, distributed across the UK through Fareshare’s network, mark a potential paradigm shift in how industry leaders can turn potential ideas into kinetic and life-changing action.
However, as our next company shows, creating change in this landscape is broader than just food and beverage manufacturers.
Staying across the pond, earlier this year, the German company and world leader in providing reusable packaging containers (RPCs), IFCO, announced it would expand its support of two of the UK’s leading food distribution charities, Fareshare and The Felix Project.
The focus of this partnership is two-fold. First, it helps to simplify and expedite the process for retailers, producers, and suppliers looking to donate surplus food to charities. Secondly, it ensures that organizations like Fareshare and The Felix Project can deliver food more safely and efficiently. As a result, this partnership helps reduce waste (food and packaging) while increasing food availability for those who need it most.
This perfectly illustrates how any company or organization in the industry, regardless of their specialization, can give from their abundance and change the narrative around hunger.
While Edlong’s heart is global, for over 100 years, our home has been Chicago. That’s why we are excited to partner with and shine a light on an innovative local organization like Bigger Table.
Although direct food donations will always play a pivotal role in fighting hunger, Bigger Table’s unique model provides an opportunity for companies throughout the entire value chain to leverage their expertise and make a direct impact in this fight.
By utilizing in-kind donations of everything from raw ingredients, manufacturing capabilities, packaging, distribution/logistics services, and even food science know-how, Bigger Table works to produce nutritious and healthy foods for food banks and pantries across the communities of Chicagoland.
In 2022, Bigger Table produced over a million servings of nutritious, low-sugar, high-protein meals for those in need. They continue to work directly with organizations and industry partners, like Edlong, to create healthy foods and meet the demands of the communities it serves.
Becoming a Food Hero doesn’t demand perfection. It only requires one thing: action.
As leaders in the food and beverage industry, we are in an extraordinary position, and with that comes the weight of responsibility. The best news is none of us have to do this alone.
In fact, we can’t.
But as these companies and organizations show us, we each have something to offer to this cause. It’s only by uniting under a common purpose that we can not only move the needle but also work to give the world a permanent holiday from hunger.
About the Author: Laurette Rondenet, CEO & Owner of The Edlong Corporation
As CEO and Owner of Edlong, a globally recognized food flavors company, I’m redefining what it means to be a beacon in the food industry, and kicking doors open to a new era of possibilities and potential through authentic connection.