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A Second Chance for Homely Peaches (Part I)

2012 November 19

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By Lena Kim

A tale of how things went from wasteful to wonderful in the Garden State

Peach-lovers living in and around New Jersey have it good, as the state ranks fourth in the nation for peach growing. We take day trips to our local orchards, baskets in arms, family members in tow, eagerly reaching for those fragrant, fuzzy orbs hanging from branches weighted down by their peachy parcels.

The one blemish on this otherwise joyous experience? That stab of guilt we feel as we carefully step over the scores of fallen, slightly bruised peaches, littering the orchard floor, as we reach for that perfect specimen, still hanging from the branch.

Our minds might wander to the fate of those countless sad, fallen fruits -“Will they be thrown away?”- yet we brush these unpleasant thoughts aside as we reach for that perfect specimen, still hanging from the branch.

And we’re right to feel guilty, because as it turns out, those fallen peaches we avoid represent a mere drop in the bushel of what ultimately gets discarded. An estimated one million – one million! – Jersey peaches are thrown into landfills each year. Not because they’re inedible, or severely bruised, but because they don’t meet size specifications or they have small blemishes that keep them from reaching our supermarket shelves. A situation that was no one’s fault, but a supply and demand issue.

The sad fact of the matter, my fellow Americans- we don’t like ugly peaches, so stores don’t stock them.

And these discarded peaches are just a miniscule fraction of the approximately 33 million tons of food waste that is tossed in landfills nationwide. And this story goes from bad to worse. Food in landfills produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that pollutes our air, as outlined in link to FRC main page.

In this season of celebrating nature’s bounty, there exists an ironic twist of fate. While a significant portion of food dumped into landfills is healthy, edible food (think of those blemished, yet otherwise perfectly edible peaches), approximately 14 percent of American households are unsure as to where there next meal will come from.

All is not the pits, thanks to a unique partnership between the Food Bank of South Jersey, local growers and Campbell Soup Company. Unable to stomach these bruising statistics any longer, these organizations have cultivated an ingenious way to help families in need, while saving space in landfills with a deliciously homegrown product.

Stay tuned for Part II of Second Chance for Homely Peaches in an upcoming blog post, to discover the happy ending to this juicy saga of loss… and of rescue.

About the author: Lena Kim works with EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge team. She lives in Center City Philadelphia, and frequents New Jersey orchards with friends & family. For more information about where to find the Just Peachy Salsa, click here.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. wade permalink
    November 19, 2012

    Before we put an ugly stamp on methane gas give consideration to the fact that the methane gas can be captured, and is being done as such, at many landfill sites and sold to commerical and industrial users for heating applications in place of natural gas. Also, many wastewater treatment plants use the methane to dry and condition biomass so as to be land applied, replacing/supplementing the use of fertilizer on pasture management.

  2. Rebecca permalink
    May 2, 2013

    Yes Wade,
    but since food decomposes so rapidly compared to other solid waste landfill components, much of the methane is released into the atmosphere before the landfill is topped and the methane is captured.
    Food for thought.

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