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Fighting Food Waste One Moving Box at a Time

Father and son pack canned goods into a moving box labeled
Jupiter Images / Getty Images

One of the most stressful parts about moving is trying to determine what things you’re going to bring with you. It’s easy to make the decisions on the big stuff, like furniture and appliances. Most people set aside some time to sort through clothes, books, and their children’s toys to figure out what they are going to keep and what they’d like to give away. Food, however, is typically one of the last things people pack.

As Moving Day approaches and they take a look around at all of the boxes they’ve already got stacked around the house, it can start to feel overwhelming. By the time they get around to everything they have accumulated in their pantry and cupboards, it seems easier to just start throwing some of the food away — so they do.

Tossing a can of soup or a box of pasta here and there may not seem like such a big deal, but the cumulative result of all those individual decisions is tragic. Approximately 40% of the food in the United States is wasted each year. Meanwhile, more than 40 million Americans are facing hunger every day. Although food is wasted at every level of the supply chain, much of is happening right in our own homes.

A simple question leads to an incredible response

Adam Lowy’s family has owned a moving company in New Jersey for nearly 100 years, and he hated seeing just how much food people wasted when they moved. So, in March of 2009, Lowy’s Moving Service started asking its customers if they’d like to donate their unopened, non-perishable food to the local food bank. In just one month, they had collected more than 300 pounds of food.

Adam quickly realized how much potential this simple idea had, so he founded Move For Hunger, a non-profit organization that has created a sustainable way to reduce food waste and fight hunger.

What began with one company has since expanded to entire industries. Nearly 1,000 moving companies from all across the United States and Canada have joined Move For Hunger and are now asking their clients if they’d like to donate their food when they move. Move For Hunger has also expanded to the multi-family apartment space and more than 1,400 properties are accepting donations from their residents when they move out. Additionally, many of the world’s leading companies have integrated Move For Hunger’s model into their employee relocation policies.

Move For Hunger has collected more than 15.7 million pounds of food over the last 10 years, which is enough to provide nearly 13 million meals for families facing hunger. There is still, however, so much work to be done. We believe it is possible to eliminate food waste from the relocation process entirely.

Why is what we do important? Because 32.4 million Americans moved in 2018. If we could collect one pound of food from each of the movers, we’d be able to provide 29 million meals annually.

In order to do that, however, we need to do more to create awareness about the problem. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to solving the food waste crisis is that many people simply don’t know that it even exists. Members of the Move For Hunger network are educating their clients, residents, and employees about the issues every day, but what about all of the people who aren’t going to move this year?

Spreading the word

That’s why events like Truck Pulls held in various cities all over the country are so important. At these events hosted by Move for Hunger and other partnering organizations, teams gather to compete and see who can pull a moving truck the fastest.

These events are not only fun ways for people to get together and get exercise; they also inform all attending about the food waste epidemic and teach people about ways they can help fight it. The teams, the attendees, and the volunteers all leave with a new understanding of just how urgent the problem is and are encouraged to brainstorm ways they can cut down on their own food waste.

They might begin to do simple things, like not buying more food than they actually need. Perhaps they’ll start paying closer attention to those confusing “sell by” and “best by” dates on the labels of the products they buy and recognize that, most of the time, it’s still OK to eat. Maybe they’ll start composting to ensure that even less organic waste ends up in a landfill. At the very least, they’ll probably share what they’ve learned with their family and friends.

It’s hard to believe that so much food could go to waste in a country where millions of people are facing hunger, but this is precisely what is happening and we’re all partially to blame. Move For Hunger has created a program that can address both problems simultaneously and leaves a lasting impact on the people who participate. If we pull together, we can create a future where no food goes to waste and everyone has enough to eat.

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