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At the close of the Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) 30th anniversary 2011 Foodservice Conference & Exposition in Monterey, Calif., trucks from the Food Bank for Monterey County assembled and loaded 18,296 pounds of donated produce from the expo to deliver to the agencies and programs that help meet the hunger needs of one out of every five families in the county.
“We’re delighted to be the recipients of this. We look forward to this day every year. We’ve been picking up from the show for a good 14 years,” said Leslie Sunny, the food bank’s executive director, noting that even in a region known as “The Salad Bowl of the World,” the amount of poverty is increasing.
Monterey County is not the exception. Its food bank is part of the network of more than 200 Chicago-based Feeding America food banks that support 61,000 agencies that feed the hungry.
Feeding America recently conducted a study to learn how large the hunger need is in the U.S. and highlighted the results in a report “Hunger in America 2010.” Comparing results to research conducted in 2006, before the recession, it is clear that hunger needs have increased significantly. To wit:
- 54% more adults and children are experiencing food insecurity (hunger) than in 2006.
- 27% more people receive emergency food assistance weekly from a food pantry, kitchen or other agency served by one of Feeding America’s food banks. (An estimated 5.7 million people fall in this category.)
- 68% more adults have sought emergency food assistance who have been unemployed for less than a year.
With unemployment still hovering around 9% nationally, the need for food donations is expected to remain high throughout 2012.
Fresh produce and related fresh food donations are especially important because of their highly nutritious nature that low-income clients served by the Feeding America network are often lacking in their diets.
In addition to the PMA Foodservice Conference & Exposition donation, PMA’s Fresh Summit donates each year, including more than 266,000 pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers last October donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
Other food shows also have gotten on board with donating rather than dumping, including the National Restaurant Association’s donation of 50,000 pounds of food left over from the May 2011 show in Chicago and the Food Marketing Institute’s 37,000-pound donation at the end of its bi-annual convention in May 2010 in Las Vegas.
To encourage more companies and organizations to donate food that would otherwise go to waste, in 1996, the government enacted the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects companies from liability when donating to a non-profit organization.
For more information, visit www.pma.com.