With approximately 44 million tons of food lost between farm and fork in the United States alone – enough to feed every American for three months – the temperature-controlled warehousing and logistics industry has taken on the responsibility of working towards a solution.
Members of the GCCA are at the forefront of this initiative, working with customers, food banks, and other charities that rescue food that might otherwise go into a landfill.
This case study showcases a GCCA member’s solution to maximize food resources.
RLS Logistics, a New Jersey-based temperature- controlled transportation and logistics provider, has always been interested in helping reduce waste, notes Greg Quast, Vice President of Operations, Freight Consolidation, at RLS.
“We’ve always worked with shippers to help them find better ways to ship their product to avoid damage in the first place,” Quast points out. “From shrink wrapping suggestions to pallet configuration ideas, these preventive measures have saved a lot of food from being destroyed. But after shipping, the problem has always been where to donate the products we ship if there is damage.”
Quast says that without the knowledge of a network of people who could receive frozen and refrigerated product, they really had no one to contact. And traditionally, food banks only have the ability to handle dry goods, and therein lay the challenge.
“When our company’s Rhonda Whittaker took on the program, she became the driving force behind making the donations happen. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of time to make a donation happen and her perseverance and passion is really why we have been successful,” Quast says.
“I used to watch thousands of pounds of food go to waste because it’s more cost effective to dump it than it is to ship it back to the dock and re-wrap the pallet,” explained Whittaker. “Coordinating donations was a long process and often a game of chance.”
Whittaker says the OS&D (Over, Short, and Damaged) team had to find a local charity that was on the same route as the driver, open at the right time, and had the facilities to care for refrigerated foods. “It was a huge coordination scramble. While the team had the right idea, they needed a faster, more reliable way to get the food to the people who needed it most.”
After years of scrambling to find food banks, Whittaker finally connected with the Food Cowboy Foundation and MealConnect. These two companies specialize in creating a network of local food banks in proximity to a truck driver. As a nationwide service, they provide contacts and coordinators that bridge the communication gap between logistics companies and the food banks.
Using both MealConnect and Food Cowboy to facilitate donations, RLS managed to donate more than 16,000 pounds of edible food saved from landfills, or close to 4000 meals, in just the first three months of 2018. In total, RLS has donated nearly 14,000 meals in the past few months through their work with around a dozen food banks from coast to coast.
“I’m able to connect pallets to food banks in as little as 10 minutes, and RLS has easily surpassed what we salvaged all of last year in just a few months by utilizing these logistical networking programs,” Whittaker is thrilled to report.
Quast readily admits that for RLS, it would be easier to solve the problem of damaged product by just making a quick call and having the driver dispose of it. “However, when you look closer, there are several factors that drive us to find homes for this food,” Quast notes. “First and foremost is the waste. Every day we see people around the world and at home starving. This is good food that often times is rejected because of a small tear in the box or even a crease. Second is the burden it puts on our carrier. They must now deal with an issue that could delay them in getting to their next stop or reload and it costs them time. And last is the effect it has on others in the system – from the shipper who worries about where it will be disposed of to the poor guy who owns the dumpster that is now full of product.”
In short, Quast says when RLS donates rather than dumps, it’s more of a win than a loss.
The Food Cowboy Foundation
The Food Cowboy Foundation has recently become a GCCA Strategic Partner as part of the association’s mission to forge a universally strong cold chain where every product retains quality and safety through each link. Food Cowboy was selected as a Strategic Partner in this important mission because of the foundation’s ability to use its communications services to enable businesses to swiftly, safely, and productively move surplus food out of the cold chain as donations to charities feeding people in need.
Food Cowboy has an extensive database of charities able to receive food donations of various sizes, and its success in reducing the amount of food wasted relies on an increasing number of businesses in the cold chain accessing its services. A strategic partnership with GCCA will increase Food Cowboy’s visibility among its members while also increasing the visibility of the problem of food waste and of the role that GCCA members can have in its solution. The foundation hopes that this partnership will result in an increase in the amount of food that Food Cowboy is able to help donate to the hungry people in communities throughout the country.