FareStart Grows Food Recovery Program to Fight Food Insecurity

October 19, 2022

We talked with Danny Barksdale (he/him), Food Recovery Program Manager, who has been with FareStart for 16 years, about our food recovery work and how it supports food security across Seattle.

So, what is food recovery? Food recovery diverts food from going to waste by collecting unsold, fresh food and upcycling it into meals or redistributing it to people who need it most. Danny says the team is innovating and experimenting with new ways to add value to that process. For example, “there could be local farmers who planted crops that aren’t selling well, so we will glean those crops at that farm.” Gleaning is gathering excess produce or crops after a harvest. “Sometimes after harvest, the second round of growth of food isn’t deemed as beautiful or sellable, but it’s still nutritious and edible. We will glean it and incorporate it into our meals, so the farmer doesn’t have to till it back into the ground.”

Food recovery has been an important aspect of FareStart’s work for 30 years, but when COVID hit, there was an opportunity to do more while fighting the rise in hunger due to the pandemic. Danny was the head chef at the FareStart Restaurant, which temporarily closed as a result of the pandemic. As other restaurants, stadiums, convention centers, venues and many other businesses in food service and hospitality closed, a lot of food stuck in the supply chain could have gone to waste. Danny shifted his work to figure out how to collect the excess food and collaborated with our chefs to integrate it into our hunger relief and food security programs. 

“It was unfortunate that all this food was stuck out there, but we decided to go and get it! Initially, we were doing a lot of learning to understand what was available and needed, and how we could forge partnerships in our community to intervene on a bigger scale.” Since the pandemic's beginning, more than 613,133 pounds of food have been recovered or donated to support our work. We are still discovering ways we can improve the process and use this food to its highest potential to increase food security for our communities. 

Forging partnerships in the community has resulted in deepening our relationships with local farmers and organizations. Sometimes FareStart takes more food than our kitchens can use so we are testing how we can equitably redistribute it to other like-minded organizations addressing hunger. For example, each week Feeding Feasible Feasts picks up excess baked goods FareStart receives from Oroweat. Through this partnership, Feeding Feasible Feasts has been able to distribute over 11,000 pounds (to date) of baked goods through The Hub. We also deliver a van full of fresh produce and frozen meals to Ballard Food Bank each month. We place whatever they cannot take in Seattle Community Fridges, ensuring people have direct access to food whenever they need it.  

Like much of our work, FareStart volunteers help make food recovery possible. “Our volunteers are donating their time and doing something impactful. For example, when they come out and glean, they are serving so many people from the farmers we work with, to those who are hungry, to the FareStart organization. They help everybody. And we have a good time doing it. We have opportunities to volunteer both in the kitchen and the food gleaning. We also have volunteer spots for redistribution.” 

It takes a village to do this work. “All those that are doing food recovery work, all those that are doing hunger relief work, all those that are growing or making food, basically anyone who’s working with food is our partner because we can come together. Food waste and hunger are tragic problems that should have been solved yesterday; we can't do it alone. We depend on everybody to do this work.”

If you would like to join us in this work visit: https://www.farestart.org/volunteer and sign up to volunteer.