Fresh Food for Low Income Families and Individuals

Executive Summary

In the recent past, food shortage has become a major problem in the world. The problem is brought about by, among others, droughts, wars, and climate change. Most of the persons affected by food shortage rely on donations to survive. In this paper, the author examined the problem of food spoilage and distribution of spoilt rations by food banks. The issue of access to good and fresh food is a major concern to most low income families and individuals. Over the years, food banks have taken up the role of collecting and dispensing provisions to persons who cannot afford the commodity. However, the issue of food spoilage has affected the quality of services provided by food banks in numerous ways. The paper provides a number of alternatives and recommendations aimed at helping organizations and other stakeholders involved in food donation and supply to manage the issue. The suggestions include labeling all foods, training volunteers and food bank employees, proper refrigeration, and maintaining proper hygiene during handling. The research method used to gather relevant information entailed a review of secondary resources on food banks and rations donation.

Background Information

The issue of food shortage is a major problem affecting most low income families and individuals in both developed and developing nations. The families depend on food donations from different organizations for their daily meals (Brown, 2014). To address the problem, food banks have been created to help provide needy persons with nutritious rations that are adequate for their needs. Although it cannot entirely eliminate hunger, providing food has helped to manage the problem to some extent. Food banks have efficiently availed provisions and distribution services by working together with charitable organizations and other entities that serve rations (Naylor, 2014). In spite of the efforts made by these parties, food banks suffer from a number of challenges during food provision. One of the primary concerns is food spoilage.

In this paper, the author will discuss the problem of food spoilage faced by food banks. The author will also analyze the people and resources affected by the issue. In addition, the paper will provide alternative solutions to the predicament and appropriate recommendations. A discussion of qualitative and quantitative evidence supporting the suggestions and solutions will also be provided.

Articulation of the Problem and its Effects

Food spoilage continues to be a major problem for food banks. One of the factors associated with food spoilage entails the donation of provisions that are not fresh. When foods are not fresh, they perish within a short time (Chen, 2014). As a result, employees working for food banks have to throw away a lot of provisions before distribution. Another factor linked to spoilage is receiving undesirable foods in surplus. Idaho Food Bank, for example, received a load of potatoes when the facility already had a warehouse full of the produce (Murcott, Belasco, & Jackson, 2016).

The problem of food spoilage has a number of negative effects. Schanbacher (2014) is of the opinion that the issue affects recipients, resources, and food banks. The primary purpose of these banks is to provide nutritional rations to food insecure persons in different parts of the globe. As a result, the reservoirs receive millions of pounds of provisions annually. San Diego Food Bank, for instance, receives approximately 23 million pounds of food per year. Out of this, 500,000 pounds is reported to be spoiled or expired (Murcott et al., 2016). Such food becomes waste because it cannot be distributed. Getting rid of the provisions costs San Diego Food Bank $25,000 annually in landfill charges.

Another effect of food spoilage is environmental costs. Land-filled rations and waste generates such components as leachate and methane. According to numerous research studies conducted by environmental experts, the chemicals lead to climate change and water pollution. To effectively manage waste and conserve the environment, food banks are forced to purchase high-tech composers. The machines are meant to process thousands of pounds of food waste per day (Carolan, 2013). Such composers are estimated to cost about $200,000. The price is high for most food banks and some take years to pay for the machines. In addition, food banks spend a lot on electricity to run the composting systems.

Food spoilage also affects the people who receive the rations. There are numerous reports that some of the provisions stored in food banks are not often fresh. As a result, there are a number of cases where consumers have been harmed by bad food. Some of the most common illnesses associated with food distributed by the banks include chills, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps (Naylor, 2014).

Perspectives Related to the Problem and Solutions

Food spoilage in food banks is caused by a number of other problems apart from the donation of rations that are not fresh. The common factors include poor maintenance of physical facilities, contaminated equipment and utensils, as well as low levels of hygiene among persons handling the food (Carolan, 2013). There are various alternatives that can be applied to manage the problem of spoilage in food banks. One of the measures includes proper maintenance and construction of physical facilities. The management should uphold the structural integrity of the food bank. In addition, the facility should be well ventilated to avoid condensation. According to Murcott et al. (2016), the reservoirs should be well lit. The lighting is especially important in places where the food is handled. The rations should also be placed at about 6 inches above the ground. The aim is to reduce chances of contamination.

Another alternative entails avoiding the use of corrosive and toxic materials, especially when making surfaces that the rations come into contact with. Such surfaces include countertops, as well as the tools used in handling the provisions (Brown, 2014). In addition, the equipment and utensils should be easy to clean. They should be sanitized before use. During manual dishwashing, at least two-compartment sinks and a separate hand washing sink should be used (Brown, 2014). The people responsible for cleaning should prepare a new sanitizing solution on a daily basis. For equipment and utensils that are cleaned by mechanical dishwashers, sanitizing should be done under temperatures of 82oC.

It is important to safeguard the provisions stored in the reservoirs from contamination. According to Schanbacher (2014), some types of food have a higher perishing and contagion rate than others. Some of the rations include milk and egg products. As a result, food banks should maintain the right temperatures in refrigerators and freezers. For refrigeration purposes, the appropriate storage temperature is 4oC (400F) or lower. On their part, freezers should be set at -18oC (0oC) or lower. In addition, high risk contamination food should not be stored in danger zone temperatures for more than two hours (Chen, 2014). Danger zone temperature ranges from 4oC (40OC) to 60oC (140oF).

All employees and volunteers working in food banks should maintain the highest levels of personal hygiene and wear clean garments. The reason is to avoid contaminating food during direct contact, such as during processing and repackaging. Employees should also clean their hands before and after handling such food products as raw poultry and meat. The reason is that the products are highly sensitive to contamination. In addition, the employees should avoid eating, drinking, or smoking within the premises (Caraher, 2015).

Recommendations

There are a number of suggestions that can help to effectively manage the problem of food spoilage in food banks.

Examining Donations

One of the recommendations involves examining all rations donated to the food banks. Reports reveal that food banks may receive expired provisions. According to Murcott et al. (2016), it is difficult to determine if food is fit for human consumption by just looking at it. As a result, employees should check for expiry dates on packed foods. In addition, they should work with nutritionists to assess the freshness of all products. During the repackaging of the examined food, all expiry dates should be transferred to the new items.

Invest in Transportation

Food spoilage may occur during transportation to centers where needy persons access the commodity. As such, it is important to ensure the cleanliness of the vehicles used for transportation (Naylor, 2014). The reason is to minimize rates of contamination and ensure that the food stays fresh. In addition, containers used during transportation should be clean. The vehicles should also be equipped with temperature regulating machines.

Train Employees

Most unsafe rations are distributed due to the lack of knowledge on spoilt food among employees and volunteers (Caraher, 2015). To reduce the risk of dispensing unsuitable provisions, workers in these banks should be trained on all aspects of food safety and examination. In addition, the trainers should have enough experience in food processing and handling. The primary aim of training is to help volunteers and employees make appropriate decisions with regards to the provisions that should be distributed and those that are unfit for human consumption.

Categorization

Another recommendation for managing food spoilage involves the categorization of all rations received by food banks. The classification should include grouping of food into non-potentially hazardous, potentially perilous, low, and high risk provisions. Non-potentially hazardous food includes prepackaged and canned products and dry goods in unopened packages from retailers (Brown, 2014). To determine the freshness and safety of these rations, the packaging and cans are examined and sorted before storage and distribution.

Low risk food includes raw fruits and vegetables. The rations should be well refrigerated. If partially spoiled, the provisions should not be stored with the fresh products. There are various types of potentially risky food products. They include dairy, meat, and poultry products (Carolan, 2013). To avoid spoilage, such food should be stored in temperatures below 4oC (40oF). In addition, the products should be pasteurized and distributed in their original and unopened packaging. If portions of such food items as meat and poultry are too big, precaution and proper handling should be maintained during cutting and repackaging of the products. High risk food entails rations from homes and those that have been partially consumed (Murcott et al., 2016). Such provisions should only be accepted for distribution if they are fresh, well labeled, and stored in proper containers (Brown, 2014).

The aim of these recommendations is to provide food banks with better ways of managing the spoilage problem. If adopted, the suggestions can reduce the risks associated with the dispensation of bad food to recipients. In addition, employees and volunteers working for food banks will have sufficient knowledge on how to handle different products (Brown, 2014).

Qualitative and Quantitative Evidence Supporting the Recommendations

Food banks receive millions of pounds of food annually. However, most of the products get damaged and are deemed unfit for human consumption. As a result, a significant portion of food that is intended for distribution is considered as waste. In Canadian Food Bank, for example, only 38% of distributed food is fresh (Naylor, 2014). Adopting the recommendations and alternatives to the solution will increase the percentage of fresh rations distributed by more than half. In addition, less food will be thrown away due to contamination and spoilage during storage, repackaging, and transportation. In San Diego Food Bank, for instance, about 500,000 pounds of rations is damaged or expired (Murcott et al., 2016). Adopting the recommendations will reduce the amount to about 150,000 pounds.

Conclusion

Lack of access to nutritional food is a major problem to most low income families. Food banks strive to gather and distribute fresh provisions to such people with the aim of managing hunger. However, the banks are faced with the problem of food spoilage. The current research identified a number of strategies that can be used to effectively manage the concern. The measures include training of employees and volunteers, maintaining food transportation vehicles and facilities, proper personal hygiene, and storing foods at recommended temperatures.

References

Brown, M. (2014). Food security, food prices and climate variability. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Caraher, M. (2015). The European Union food distribution programme for the most deprived persons of the community, 1987-2013: From agricultural policy to social inclusion policy?. Health Policy, 119(7), 932-940.

Carolan, M. (2013). Reclaiming food security. London: Routledge.

Chen, Y. (2014). Trade, food security, and human rights: The rules for international trade in agricultural products and the evolving world food crisis. Farnham, Surrey, England: Routledge.

Murcott, A., Belasco, W., & Jackson, P. (2016). The handbook of food research. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Naylor, R. (2014). The evolving sphere of food security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schanbacher, W. (2014). The global food system: Issues and solutions. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.