Government and charities hit two targets with one arrow as they give reprieve to struggling farmers and also nutritious options to vulnerable populations.
Sometimes solutions to a problem are easy to find if people have the right intentions behind them. This year, the apple farmers had a record surplus on their hands because of a variety of factors. Most of the farmers were going to waste it, but with the aid of certain organizations, now these apples will be going to feed hungry families, per NPR. This noble pursuit will provide nutritious food to needy individuals and, at the same time, save many farmers from loss. The collaboration is taking place in West Virginia, where hundreds of charities have come forward to facilitate this venture.
Carla Kitchen was one of the many manufacturers that were left with a huge surplus of apples without anywhere to sell them. It was a worrisome prospect for them. "Imagine 80% of your income is sitting on the trees and the processor tells you they don't want them," Kitchen says, "You've got your employees to worry about. You've got fruit on the trees that need somewhere to go. What do you do?" There were a variety of factors to blame for this predicament. Last year, the supply was more than the demand, which led to a surplus and the weather also left a huge portion of apples cosmetically unsuitable for the fresh market.
Many growers across the country have been left without a market due to oversupplied apple processors. West Virginia rescued its surplus, with a plan that donates apples to hunger-fighting charities.https://t.co/RTct7SPRqR— KRWG Public Media (@krwg) November 28, 2023
"Last year's season was so good that the price went down on processors and they said, 'Let's buy while the buyings are good,'" Gerlach says, "These processors basically filled up their storage warehouses. It's just the market." Seeing the situation in Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin got to work. He convinced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to buy these surplus apples from growers. Thereafter, these apples were donated to hunger-fighting charities from South Carolina and Michigan all the way out to the Navajo Nation.
The Apple Relief Program was created in accordance with Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935. The Agricultural department brought $10 million worth of apples for distribution. One of the biggest names associated with this venture as a charity was The Farmlink Project. This charity took on more than half the state's surplus, which came around 300 trucks full of apples. Mike Meyer, head of advocacy at The Farmlink Project, was elated by this project and hopes that other states will also follow this model to help the needy in their locale.
"There are over 100 billion pounds of produce waste in this country every year; we only need seven billion to drive food insecurity to zero," Meyer says, "We're very happy to have this opportunity. We get to support farmers, we get to fight hunger with an apple. It's one of the most nutritional items we can get into the hands of the food insecure." Cordell and Kim Watt, owners of Timber Ridge Fruit Farm in Virginia, are happy that this program not only helped the needy but also aided them in recovering their losses.
"This was an unprecedented territory," Watt says, "The first time I can remember in my lifetime that they [processors] put everybody on a quota. I know several growers that just let them fall on the ground. The program with Farmlink has really taken care of the fruit in West Virginia, but in a lot of other states, there's a lot of fruit going to waste. We just gotta hope that there's funding there to keep this thing going."
The So What Else food pantry in Bethesda, Maryland, has been filled to the brim with apple pallets. Executive director Megan Joe wants this program to continue and believes in 'more the merrier.' "My coworkers are like, 'Megan, do we really need this many?' And I'm like, yes!" Joe says, "The growing prices in the grocery stores are really tough for a lot of families. And it's honestly gotten worse since COVID." The success of the program has impressed the USDA and they are now moving forward with an additional $100 million purchase to relieve the apple surplus in other states around the country. This will be the largest government purchase of apples and apple products to date.