How Millions of U.S. Apples Escaped Decay to Feed Hungry Families

How Millions of U.S. Apples Escaped Decay to Feed Hungry Families. Image

In the heart of West Virginia's apple orchards, a crisis loomed. Amidst a bountiful harvest season, Carla Kitchen and her team faced an unprecedented challenge. With processors like Andros turning down their produce, a significant portion of their income hung in jeopardy, dangling from the trees.

The Apple Surplus Crisis

Christopher Gerlach, US Apple's director of industry analytics, attributes this surplus to a confluence of factors: An unusually productive harvest and a 21% decline in exports over the decade. Additionally, weather anomalies rendered many apples cosmetically unfit for the fresh market, further exacerbating the crisis.

West Virginia's Unique Solution

In a turn of events, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia secured a deal with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to buy apples from local growers, providing a lifeline to those in his state. This initiative marked a pivotal moment for West Virginia's agriculture, setting a precedent for future interventions.

The Farmlink Project: Turning Waste Into Wealth

The Farmlink Project, a non-profit organization, played a crucial role in redirecting more than 10 million pounds of apples to hunger-fighting charities. Mike Meyer, the head of advocacy, expressed hope that this initiative would serve as a blueprint for combating food insecurity nationwide.

Impact Beyond State Borders

Virginia's Timber Ridge Fruit Farm, co-owned by Cordell and Kim Watt, also benefited from this program. They witnessed their surplus apples being shipped to food pantries, highlighting the cross-state impact of the initiative.

A Nationwide Ripple Effect

The success in West Virginia spurred the USDA to announce a $100 million purchase to alleviate apple surplus in other states, marking the largest government buy of apples to date. However, with the harvest season closing, many apples had already been wasted.

A Harvest of Hope

The apple surplus crisis of 2023, while daunting, unveiled the potential for collaborative solutions to turn agricultural excess into a source of nourishment for those in need. It serves as a testament to the power of collective action in addressing food insecurity and supporting local farmers.

Reference: Millions of U.S. apples were almost left to rot. Now, they'll go to hungry families

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