USDA let millions of pounds of food rot as food bank demand skyrockets

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The steep drop in demand has left many producers with no other choice than to throw out the surplus food or leave it in the fields because the cost of picking, packing and storing crops would not than push them further into the hole. Some with more resources on hand have borne the cost of harvesting and donating food themselves, but the heartbreaking reality is that crops are being abandoned on an unprecedented scale.

A handful of states, including Florida and California, have set up online clearinghouses to try to match excess food to the needs of their region, but the high volumes of surplus products often cannot not be absorbed by local food banks alone, which makes national distribution important to even clear up waste.

Paul Allen, co-owner of RC Hatton Farms, is currently browsing hundreds of acres of cabbage – a process that grinds crops in the ground – because there is simply no market for it. It’s heartbreaking to watch, but the cabbage he grows is generally used for coleslaw in restaurant chains like KFC. Allen estimates that he left about 8 million pounds of cabbage and 4.5 million pounds of green beans in the fields.

“We were devastated,” said Allen. His business has already donated hundreds of thousands of pounds of vegetables to food banks. The company also sent containers of produce to the Bahamas and paid the harvest costs to make it happen.

Now, says Allen, he has to decide how many of his crops are best left unpicked, not knowing when much of his customer base will reopen. “Should I continue to suffer more losses? He said, noting that vegetable growers have already spent several thousand dollars per acre before harvesting. “But if I stop growing food for our country, it’s even a bigger problem. “

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