Special to the Swellesley Report from Wellesley High School Senior Natalie Gubbay, who writes on what she learned about food waste while working on her senior project. She heads off to Colorado College after she graduates from WHS.
It’s a late April afternoon, and the gardens on Weston Road are stirring into motion after a long winter. Signs of green are welcome after months of desolate brown, and on a warm day like this one, there are dozens of gardeners tilling, weeding, and planting, preparing for the bright and colorful season to come.
In just a few months, these six acres– part of the North 40– will be laden with tomatoes, carrots, kale, and chard. And just to the left of the entrance will be several coolers and a hand-painted sign that reads “Food Pantry Drop, 8am Tuesday”.
Each week, gardeners here at the Weston Road Community Gardens are invited to fill the empty coolers with some of their homegrown produce. Volunteers pick the donations up and drive them to the Wellesley food pantry, where they are distributed to local families in need.
The food pantry drop serves a dual purpose: it gets fresh, healthy food to local residents who need it and makes use of food we grow but cannot eat. It’s a conundrum that’s all too familiar: we wait months for the taste of a late summer tomato, only to be left mid-August with far more than we could ever imagine eating. Donating this excess only makes sense; it’s top-quality produce with zero “food miles” and is far too valuable to be tossed in the compost, or worse, in the garbage after sitting a few days too long in the fridge.
Nationwide, though, this is far too common a fate. About 40% of all food in the U.S. is wasted– enough to fill the Rose Bowl stadium every single day. Not all of this occurs at such an individual level; waste accrues throughout the food supply chain, from fields left unharvested due to labor shortages and vegetables rejected because they don’t meet standards of uniformity. Reducing that total loss by just 30% would be enough food to feed the estimated 50 million hungry people in America.
I’m walking with Judith Boland, who’s gardened at the Weston Road plots for fifteen years and who [Read more…]