Final spring, as experiences of farmers plowing completely ripe greens again into the soil and dumping surplus gallons of milk made headlines, it shortly turned clear simply how fragile our meals system is.
“Farmers, especially those that were working with restaurants, more or less had their markets disappear overnight,” says Julia Kurnik, director of innovation start-ups at the Markets Institute at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “There was all this food going to waste, juxtaposed against the bare grocery shelves and people struggling to find food even if they could afford it.”
Round the identical time, the US Postal Service reported it was dealing with a big income shortfall of $363 million at the begin of its fiscal yr. Confronted with these two realities, Kurnik and her colleagues started to toy with an concept to resolve each issues.
Over the previous yr, the crew at WWF’s Markets Institute has been creating pointers for a brand new initiative known as Farmers Put up that would profit a number of teams without delay: farmers, shoppers and the struggling postal service. The enterprise case, revealed late final month, provides a little bit of a blueprint for a way a CSA-like supply program run by the postal service may work.
The proposed Farmers Put up course of would look one thing like this: The USPS, which delivers mail and packages six days every week to most homes all through the nation, would assist bridge the hole between farmers and shoppers. Farmers would develop and package deal produce into USPS packing containers that may be delivered recurrently. USPS would choose the produce-filled packing containers up and ship on to shoppers in close by zones, who would place orders through a 3rd occasion.
The crew at Markets Institute hopes the program may assist transfer contemporary produce into the houses of those that can’t afford present meals supply choices. Katherine Devine, director of enterprise case improvement at WWF’s Markets Institute, has watched meals supply companies surge throughout the pandemic, with grocery e-commerce firms reminiscent of Instacart, FreshDirect and Peapod seeing their projected development accelerating by at the least 5 years. “But it’s still not accessible to everyone,” she says. “It’s expensive, with added tips, delivery fees and other hidden fees. And just like CSAs aren’t available in every market, neither are these delivery services.”
It may additionally assist convey some much-needed income to the USPS. In accordance with the report, a 2-to-3-percent market penetration of Farmers Put up may lead to $1.5 billion in annual USPS income. A ten-percent market penetration may add $6 billion to the postal service’s coffers.
Farmers Put up is a seemingly easy course of, one that would probably assist forestall meals waste and handle meals insecurity whereas additionally opening up one other income stream for 2 struggling industries. However is it lifelike?
In idea, Farmers Put up could be a handy and cost-effective answer for farmers to attach with shoppers, with no need to go away their houses. This could possibly be a brand new approach to attain senior residents, individuals with disabilities and others who could also be homebound. And if Supplemental Vitamin Help Program (SNAP) advantages could possibly be utilized, Farmers Put up would get meals into the houses that want it most. However its success is determined by components past the Markets Institute’s management.
Whereas the crew continues to be in early discussions with the USPS, they are saying there’s quite a lot of pleasure about it. After all, the company would want to do one thing about the persisting supply delays with the intention to guarantee the produce would arrive inside 24 hours of being packed. In any other case, Farmers Put up dangers turning into simply one other contributor to meals waste.
However Kurnik and Devine are invested in seeing the initiative take off. “The reality is [food loss] is a challenge that exists outside of COVID as well, which is why Farmers Post could be such a meaningful solution,” says Devine. “Hopefully, we can take the idea and see it come to fruition.”