Giving Compass' Take:

• Lela Nargi asks experts about why so many organizations are hurting for donations while farmers are forced to dump mass quantities of food.

• What does this expose about food waste and inefficiencies in the United States? How can you work to improve food policies? What can we do to make immediate improvements to food programs' access to resources?

• Find out how you can get involved with programs desperately hurting for donations and other coronavirus relief efforts.

In early March, as the first wave of Americans succumbed to Covid-19, states and towns shuttered schools and sent college students packing, closed bars and cafes, and forced restaurants to transition to delivery or take-out-only operations. The effects on the agriculture sector were immediate and severe. With no outlets for their perishable products, farmers who normally supply such institutional kitchens dumped milk, plowed under fields, and wondered if their operations would last another season.

Meanwhile, parallel reports emerged about food banks, soup kitchens, and senior meal programs hurting for donations. Why couldn’t this food be diverted to where it was needed?

To get a clearer understanding of where institutional food comes from, why kinks at the center of the supply chain make rerouting a challenge, and what’s being done to change that, I talked to a variety of agriculture experts.

Casella: The majority of producers in Florida and California grow a large volume of fruit and vegetables for the food-service industry. With those states’ peak harvests beginning as the pandemic started, the food distribution system did not have time to absorb the excess volume.

Terry: Areas where you see eye-popping pictures of massive waste are from operations that are bigger than they should be. Everything is predicated on a supply chain with few fluctuations, but anybody who grew up on a farm knows that agriculture doesn’t work that way. Even in Fayetteville, though, we had local producers who were growing for the school and the restaurant systems and  when the marketplace shut down, there was a surge of produce and farmers were like, holy crap, what to we do?

Read the full article about programs hurting for donations during coronavirus by Lela Nargi at The Counter.