The pandemic has caused agricultural and food access chaos. Last year, farmers were dumping milk, eggs, and produce into their fields due to breakdowns and cuts in the supply chain. At the same time, there were huge lines at local food banks. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, these issues sparked a program called “Farmlink” to connect the farmers with the people who need the food.
Aidan Reilly is the co-founder of the project. He says they started by cold-calling farms to see if they had any surplus food they could donate. He then went to the farms, picked up the food, and delivered it right to the local food banks. The idea took off, and Farmlink is now run completely by volunteers, mostly college students in 40 states.
"We move between half-a-million and a-million-pounds of food a week all over the United States. What we do is, we pay the cost that the farmer needs to break even and pays workers," says Reilly. "We provide all the transportation and logistics to get that food to the food bank and then we get tax receipts to the farmers so that they can write off the value of their produce on their next tax cycle, basically."
They have a farm sourcing team on the phone calling farmers, but farmers can also reach out to them. He says they are always responsive to what’s available.
"The easiest way is through our website, farmlink project.org, or, my email firstname.lastname@example.org. What we want to do is make it so that if you contact us, we’ll take all the headaches off your hands. We’ll learn your basic info and what you need and what works best for you, and then from there, we’ll do the rest," he says. "We want to make sure that you’re never paying to dump food that people could be eating."
Reilly says they have plans to become a long-term and sustainable organization in the fight against food insecurity and food waste.