Harvesters: diminishing hunger and reducing waste

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program which awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.

In 2012, the district awarded a grant to Harvesters Community Food Network, which serves a 26-county service area in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. The organization is well-known in the Kansas City region as a clearinghouse for collecting and redistributing food and household products. Last year, Harvesters distributed more than 41 million pounds of food and household products to food pantries and soup kitchens to help those in need.

Much of Harvesters’ product comes from generous donations of perishable food from food manufacturers and produce operations. For the most part, this is food doesn’t meet the standards of grocery stores but is still edible. Unfortunately, some of the produce that Harvesters receives is no longer edible and is not for distribution to its network of partner agencies.

Food waste gleeningThe inedible food used to leave the warehouse through the trash, but Harvesters wanted to reduce the environmental impact of its operations. Harvesters successfully applied for a district grant to change how it manages unusable food donations. The grant funds were used to build a concrete pad and gravel drive that allowed for placement of an additional, separate container for discarded food. The funding also purchased roller bins and provided staff training.

Once considered trash, discarded food is now collected and composted by Missouri Organic Recycling. During the first year of operations with its new sorting process, Harvesters diverted more than 600 tons of food to be composted. According to Chief Operating Officer Norm Bowers, the project was successful because Harvesters had the support of its board and staff, and a plan in place to begin diverting produce.

Over the next 10 years, Harvesters projects it will divert more than 4,000 tons of perishables and produce from disposal.

The Solid Waste Management District is proud to support Harvesters in this effort and help the organization reach its goal of a reduced environmental impact.

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