On March 20, 2016 green bagels intended for St. Patrick’s Day were spotted in a dumpster a few blocks north of Elmwood Village. Brooklyn has Rainbow Bagels™ and can’t make enough to keep up with demand (800+ per day). Buffalo has green bagels and can’t sell enough.
A call to the business verified they made too many this year. They gave them away to customers but didn’t know what else to do with them at the end of the weekend other than throw them out.
For years Buffalo has remained in the third or fourth spot on the unfortunate list of cities with the highest poverty rates – 30% average with a higher number for children. Poverty is complex with limited housing; inadequate health care; utility expenses; inaccessible education needs; limited transportation and clothing as parts of the equation in systemic weaknesses.
The Buffalo News declared new “data from the U.S. Census Bureau released in September 2015 showed 47.3 percent of children in Buffalo grew up in poverty last year. A modest decrease from 2013, when the Census Bureau revealed a majority of Buffalo’s children – 50.6 percent – lived below the poverty line. Buffalo’s children remain the third poorest in the nation among cities with populations greater than 245,000.”
In 2015 the Feeding America Organization estimated that 40 percent of good, safe food produced in America never makes it to plates.
In 2015 the Feeding America Organization estimated that 40 percent of good, safe food produced in America never makes it to plates. Instead of being consumed that 40 percent (70 billion tons) goes to waste. The numbers seem plausible from hundreds of wasted bagels from one business in one weekend.
Foraging for food in dumpsters may not appeal to everyone but it has become a necessity for many families across the country. Some areas of the city are doing well but there is still a lot of work to be done. At a 30% poverty rate there are at least 75,000 (*) residents living in abject poverty.
Developing strategic partnerships between local business and community non-profit organizations such as City Mission, Jericho Road, Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center, Haven House and others would be a proactive plan to offset hunger rather than having hundreds of good bagels land in a dumpster.
In February 2016 France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them to donate it to charities and food banks. Hopefully the US, or cities in the US will consider doing the same.
Composting food, and returning it to the soil where it can help to grow more food is also an alternative (Farmer Pirates) until additional solutions are found. Urban agriculture, community gardens, SNAP benefits that match up to $20 spent at a farmer’s market are also helping, albeit slowly. This post won’t solve the problem. It’s intended to highlight the larger issue of food waste in the city with optimism that partnerships between businesses, community organizations and individuals can help reduce hunger.
(*) This number fluctuates according the source. There may also be undocumented and/or recent immigrants and others not included in the statistics.
T. A. Marciano, March 2016