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These Students Are Sending Thousands Of Pounds Of Food Waste To Food Banks

FarmLink is a grassroots movement that found a solution to farmers dumping food while food banks faced shortages.

Owen Dubeck/ FarmLink

A group of students has come together to link farmers who have been forced to throw away food because of the coronavirus pandemic, to food banks across the U.S.

FarmLink is a grassroots movement created by two students from Brown University who are helping pay farmers while redirecting their food waste to charitable organizations. Since the group started in April, it has grown to a team of 20 students and recent graduates from University of Southern California, Dartmouth College, Stanford University, the Harvard School of Business, and Cornell University, along with a network of volunteers. 

So far, the group has moved more than 239,000 pounds of food from farmers to food banks and paid more than $4,500 in wages, according to its website. 

“Our goal is to get produce where it is needed most,” Will Collier, a senior at Brown and member of the FarmLink team, told NowThis. “No food bank should have to turn people away during this crisis.”

Owen Dubeck/ FarmLink

As restaurants and schools have shut down, farmers that relied on supplying them food were suddenly left with cancelled orders and a surplus of products. As a result, farmers have been forced to dump millions of pounds of food, including potatoes, fresh produce, and milk. The meat industry also took a hit, as thousands of meatpacking workers tested positive for COVID-19, and labor union groups pressured the facilities to shut down. 

While government bailouts and individual states are working to aid the agricultural industry during the pandemic, FarmLink is helping to reduce food waste by raising money to purchase the excess food from farmers, and rerouting the deliveries to food bank distributor partners. In April, the group completed its first delivery, which consisted of 50,000 pounds of onions from a farm in Oregon. 

Collier said that FarmLink has grown thanks to a mix of the team’s personal and corporate relationships, along with donations— which pays for the wages of farm workers and truckers. The organization also recently partnered with Uber Freight in a deal that helps FarmLink with transports of food, Collier says. 

As of May 8, FarmLink has moved food in Idaho, Oregon, Utah, California, North Carolina, and Virginia and has plans to start working in Texas, Wyoming, New York, Michigan and the New England area. The group is aiming to move at least 1 million pounds of food by the end of May and 5 million pounds by the end of the summer. 

Volunteers, farmers, transportation companies, and food banks can get involved by contacting FarmLink here.