An organization founded by college students has found a way to pay farmers and provide food for food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FarmLink Project says they have delivered 239,620 pounds of food to food banks while paying $4,514 of wages to farm workers and other workers affected economically by the crisis.
The group of students fundraises, obtains surplus produce from farmers and suppliers, and then pays for the transportation and delivery of the items to food banks. All of the donations to the organization go to paying the wages of farm workers and truckers, according to the organization’s website.
The initative was founded by Stanford University student James Kanoff and Brown University student Aidan Reilly, with donations from friends and family. The organization has since grown to include 20 students, according to the New York Times.
"Our goal is to get produce where it is needed most," Will Collier, a Brown University student and member of the FarmLink team, told NowThis. "No food bank should have to turn people away during this crisis."
Workers at FarmLink have been cold-calling hundreds of farmers to find surplus food, according to the New York Times.
Farmlink🤝Food Finders. We are absolutely thrilled to be the fiscal agent for FarmLink. What they've done so far is amazing and moving forward we are excited to assist them in anyway we can.🚜! #CovidResponse#Grassroots#farmers#foodinsecuritypic.twitter.com/KSDMhMKSx9— Food Finders🍎 (@FoodFindersLBC) May 7, 2020
"Just getting through to the farmers is the hardest part, because they are so busy," Jordan Hartzell told the New York Times.
Food banks in the United States have seen a drastic increase in demand because the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans out of work. Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the country, has projected a financial shortfall of $1.4 billion over the next six months, according to the New York Times. The network has seen demand at food banks increase by an average of 70%, according to Politico.
The president of a food bank in San Antonio, Texas, told the Guardian his food bank would have to "ration and give families less." Even before the pandemic, in 2019, 40 million Americans received free meals or groceries through food banks, soup kitchens, or other services, according to the Guardian.
Meanwhile, restaurant closures have left many farmers with excess cropsand livestock. The US Department of Agriculture has set aside $3 billion to buy excess food, but critics say the program came too late for food producers, according to Politico.