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I was a college senior ready to kick off my career with a new job offer from Accenture.

I’d studied architecture and economics. My interests in analytics and creative problem-solving made consulting seem like a natural next step.

Then, in March 2020, those plans got put on hold as COVID-19 shut down school, sent workers home and set off the biggest global crisis in a century.

Around that time, my twin brother Ben, a group of friends and I began discussing the heartbreaking scenes of people lined up at food banks across the country. We also became aware of the surge in surplus produce that normally would be going to schools, restaurants and other food-service locations shuttered by lockdowns.

What if there was a way to get that food to families in need, instead of sending it to the waste heap?

With some unexpected time on our hands and a desire to help, our small volunteer group launched what we call The Farmlink Project.

We connect farmers to food banks

Our early conversations touched on complex issues like food waste, the rise in food insecurity and the extraordinary efforts of food banks to help families in need. Like many new ventures, our first efforts required working the phones. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to incentivize busy farmers to divert their surplus produce to a charitable cause.

The calls paid off. Our team got word of a load of 11,000 eggs at a farm near Los Angeles. So, we rented a truck and delivered them to food banks in the area. Separately, with the help of donations from family and friends, we were able to purchase 40,000 pounds of onions from a California farm and pay a driver to deliver the load to Los Angeles area food banks.

We needed a network

We knew the crisis of food insecurity and the dilemma of surplus food were big problems, and those early deliveries were among the first hints that Farmlink could help make a small difference. But we needed a network of drivers and volunteers to make it happen.

We were able to secure a partnership with Uber Freight, which helped us cover delivery costs. A coast-to-coast network of student and professional volunteers loading trucks and delivering food helped Farmlink move one million pounds of food in the first month of operation.

To date, Farmlink has delivered more than 31 million pounds of food to food banks in 47 U.S. states. Thanks to media coverage, Farmlink has been able to get the attention of generous donors who helped the organization raise nearly $6 million to date.

Everyday heroes

The real heroes who are connecting surplus food to people in need are people like Martha Barajas, founder of United Hands food bank in Compton, California. In the early morning hours, she is already collecting surplus donations for the center’s daily food giveaways. Martha and her team of volunteers serve 600 families on weekdays, and more than 1,000 families on Saturdays. Farmlink has provided support by placing shipments of produce so she can serve her community.

I’m grateful to have the support of my Accenture Social Innovator colleagues who believe that ideas can change the world, and that individuals can make a difference.

Farmlink has taught me a lot about food waste, and how food moves from field to processing plant to consumers. It’s also been a great example of social innovation in action, and of what can happen when people are empowered and inspired to create change.

While I’m beyond proud of our collective efforts, I’ll admit that our ultimate goal is to not have to exist—because that means we’ll have done something right.

Join us, and do extraordinary things.

 

Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks of Accenture.

This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. This document refers to marks owned by third parties.  All such third-party marks are the property of their respective owners.  No sponsorship, endorsement or approval of this content by the owners of such marks is intended, expressed or implied.

Will Collier

Consulting Development Analyst, San Francisco

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