Food: the State's Largest Trash Crop

Unfounded liability concerns keep edible food from being donated

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    BELVIDERE, IL - AUGUST 12: Corn grows in a field August 12, 2008 near Belvidere, Illinois. Despite farmers experiencing the worst flooding in 15 years in the Midwest, the nation's corn harvest is expected to be the second largest in history and soybeans the fourth largest. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Ask any "freegan," and they'll tell you: There is plenty of perfectly healthy, delicious food to eat in the dumpsters behind your local supermarket.

    That's because even as the number of people in the state and across the country going hungry is rising, 6 million tons of food a year goes to waste in the state on its way from the farm to the table.

    Productive crops sometimes get plowed under, and gleaning programs to get blemished but edible food to the hungry often fall short of saving all the fruits and vegetables left in the field.

    And while supermarkets often donate bakery goods to food banks and other programs, meat and vegetables often go to waste even though the stores are protected from liability from accidental food poisoning by a federal law.

    Restaurants are also coming up short, with only 1,000 of the state's 90,000 dining establishments participating participating in Food Donation Connection, and most of those are fast food chains.

    It's troubling news from the state that produces the majority of the fruits, nuts and vegetables in the United States.

    Jackson West and a friend are noodling an idea that would use technology to make farm-to-table logistics more efficient -- and lead to less waste -- for small producers.