As COVID-19 gripped the nation, the director of a local food pantry that requested anonymity told FreightWaves that sourcing food has become problematic, as has the ability to transport that food to the local pantry for distribution. It is an issue that predates the pandemic, but one that has been exacerbated by the current crisis at food banks around the nation.
One of the main obstacles to solving food insecurity lies in the supply chain. Feed the Children said as much as 40% of food in the U.S. is wasted each year, simply because it can’t get transported to where it is needed. It is a logistical problem that trucking can help solve.
Solving the logistics end of the problem, then, could go a long way to helping close the food insecurity gap.
“There is a great deal of logistics involved in moving our nation’s food, and waste does happen along the way and it’s at alarming levels,” Adam Lowy, executive director and founder of Move For Hunger, a non-for-profit organization that connects transportation companies with capacity to organizations seeking to transport food. “It’s not that we don’t have enough food, it’s that we are throwing it away. If you ask most of the nation’s food banks what their biggest challenges are, transportation is one.”
Move for Hunger was founded in 2009 when Lowy was helping in his family’s New Jersey-based moving business.
“What bothered me and my family was the perfectly good non-perishable food in the pantries getting thrown out,” Lowy told FreightWaves, adding that he decided to collect the excess food and bring it to a local food pantry. “In the first month, we collected over 300 pounds. We brought that food to a food bank and that is when I really found out how [bad the problem really was].”
Quick growth model
Since its humble beginnings, Move for Hunger now has over 1,000 partners, from moving companies to realtors to apartment communities. There are even some lawn care companies that assist in moving excess food to local food banks.
“Our model is really based at the local level,” Lowy said. “But we are going to see a need for large [quantities of food]. We need to make sure that food can get where [it needs to go].”
To help move that food, Lowy and Move For Hunger are beginning to look for more transportation partners outside the moving space. Commercial Carpet Logistics is one of those companies.
The Georgia-based carpet and flooring hauler had seen a decline in its business due to COVID-19, but when a call came through the Maryland Motor Truck Association for a fleet with capacity to haul 80 pallets of food from a Kraft Heinz facility to a Philadelphia-area food bank, it saw an opportunity to help.
“We’re a small family business and our drivers are like family to us; we know their wives and we wanted to keep them working,” Cassie Sealing, executive vice president and daughter of company owner Ed Sealing, told FreightWaves. “As a group we have always talked about philanthropy. When times are good, we always talk about what we can do, but we wanted to do something besides just writing a check.”
Lowy said it is companies like Commercial Carpet Logistics that can provide the needed capacity moving forward as Move For Hunger grows and additional large-scale donations are secured. He mentioned that the organization has done some work with the Global Cold Chain Alliance and is hoping to secure relationships with other large food companies for future donations – donations that won’t fit in small delivery vans or on lawn care vehicles.
Refrigerated capacity is a critical need for Move For Hunger.
“When we utilized Commercial Carpet Logistics for that opportunity, I wouldn’t have sent them out to pick up three boxes from someone’s house,” Lowy said, noting that the size of the donation required larger vehicles. “We’ve heard stories of food sometimes being delivered to [retailers] and that food might be near its expiration date and turned away. We don’t want to see that food thrown away.”
Reducing empty miles for a cause
From a carrier perspective, hauling the food could be a better alternative than running empty, Lowy said, and the costs associated with transporting Move For Hunger loads could be tax deductible. The key, he said, is building up the organization’s transportation network so when food becomes available, the capacity is there to assist.
“We’re currently doing outreach to reach some of those companies, but if we can partner with some companies that work [with major brands that would help],” he said. “Sometimes it is a trailer load of products that they have from time to time… but I don’t always have a trailer. To have the resources available to call on – when you are talking about the logistics of moving food – it would be helpful to have more of these freight companies in our network.”
Lowy added that he is not looking for companies to go “out of the way” to move food, but rather looking for fleets interested in getting involved and trying to find situations where the food delivery “aligns with what they are already doing.”
“We’ve grown this from one company to over 1,000 moving companies, but we never guarantee we can move the food,” he said. “When the opportunity comes up, we reach out to our transportation partners [and try to find a match]. It’s a problem that is going to be an issue for a long time, and we, Move For Hunger, are trying to tackle this from a different angle.”
For any fleet interested in learning more, Lowy said he would be happy to talk with them, explain how the program works, and determine if there is a potential match for a future load. Fleets can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.