A year ago, as COVID-19 spread and states asked people to shelter in place, the food system started to fall apart. With restaurants and schools closed, many farmers suddenly had no place to sell their produce and had to throw it out. Simultaneously, overrun grocery stores had empty shelves, and farmers who sold directly to consumers couldn’t keep up with demand. Grocery delivery services were overwhelmed.
Some of the challenges were temporary. But the situation also highlighted problems that existed long before the pandemic. Food waste is common on farms, partly because it isn’t always easy to find a market for excess produce—even though millions of Americans are food insecure and in need of healthful food.
At the World Wildlife Fund’s Market Institute, which looks at market trends and new business opportunities that could impact food systems, the pandemic sparked an idea: What if the U.S. Postal Service delivered boxes of affordable produce from farms to nearby homes?