As the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the world, one of the more surprising effects has been on the food supply. Stores have closed, deliveries have slowed, and millions of pounds of crops have been left rotting in storehouses.
This means that a lot of people haven't gotten the food they need. One man is doing his part to help.
George Ahearn heard that farmers in Washington state were giving away potatoes and onions that they couldn't get to market. Inspired and wanting to do his part to help, he made a Facebook post asking for someone to loan him a truck or trailer to help transport the food. The response to the post was astronomical and he wound up with a fleet of 4 trucks and 2 trailers had hauled 9.3 tons of crops. This voluntary act of kindness grew into a nonprofit organization called EastWest Food Rescue. They have already rescued 2.4 million pounds of food and delivered it to people in need around the country.
“The whole thing started because of COVID,” Nancy Balin, one of the people who responded to Ahearn’s initial request, told Seattle Times. She now helps direct the program.
“They immediately lost all the restaurant contracts they had for these quality potatoes and onions. And since European countries were shut down, they weren’t exporting them because their restaurants were closed.”
Zsofia Pasztor, a farmer and fellow nonprofiteur began donating crates and boxes for transporting the crops because food banks originally admitted that they couldn’t accept a semi-truck load of ‘loose’ potatoes.
“The whole thing was extremely organic and took on a life of its own almost immediately,” said Balin. Right now, the organization is trying to raise $250,000 to help hit their goal of delivering 10 million pounds of food, but they need to build a fleet of refrigerated trucks for perishables like dairy and eggs.
Ahearn had originally planned to shut down the operation after they reached 70 tons, so he could spend more time with his family, but that was long ago, and he accepts that in this moment he “can’t stop.”