USPS Could Help Deliver Food to Those in Need

Image: Lisa Fotios/Pexels

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

new analysis from the World Wildlife Fund lays out a plan to use the existing logistical infrastructure of the United States Postal Service to distribute millions of tons of food from farmers directly to consumers. Each year, an estimated 17 million tons of crops never leave the farm, despite millions of Americans living in food-insecure households. WWF’s business case, Farmers Post, proposes how fresh, nutritious food can make it to those who need it most while helping farmers as well.

Why This Matters: Prior to the pandemic, 40 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, with only one in 10 American adults getting the fruits and vegetables they need,” said Julia Kurnik, director of innovation startups at the World Wildlife Fund’s Markets Institute. “COVID-19 has only exacerbated hunger and lack of access to nutritious food.”

  • According to Feeding America, more than 80% of the nation’s food banks have reported serving more people during the pandemic.
  • Communities of color are impacted disproportionately by both COVID-19 and food insecurity; Black households face hunger at more than twice the rate of white, non-Hispanic households.

Not only is the pressure on for consumers, but also for farmers. “We’re seeing our food systems in the U.S. and across the globe break down in real-time. There is so much pressure on farmers right now, and they need a lifeline. The program we’re proposing could really help,” said Kurnik.

Distribution Goals: WWF’s Farmers Post model would utilize existing USPS routes. In practice, farmers would package produce in a standard flat rate box that would offer a low-cost option when shipped locally. Participating farms could offer their produce along a local route, within two zip-codes, that would minimize out-of-pocket distribution costs and environmental impacts as well.

  • Environmental impacts could be further mitigated as President Biden moves to make the entire fleet of federal vehicles electric.
  • However, USPS recently unveiled new, pretty goofy-looking, trucks and while some will be electric, many are critical that a larger portion of the budget could have been used toward electric vehicles.

Even though a fully electric federal fleet may take time, the Farmers Post model’s focus on locality and existing infrastructure can deliver millions of tons of crops without increasing the supply chain’s carbon footprint.

Since March 2020, America’s distribution infrastructure has been put to the test, most notably when the Trump administration attempted to defund USPS and during the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine rollout. But WWF’s model could be a boon to the USPS budget. Consumer uptake of Farmers Post could add up to $6 billion to annual USPS revenue. In a statement, WWF said that “the Farmers Post model has the potential to be both highly cost-competitive and environmentally beneficial. Because the produce would be picked up and delivered directly via USPS, Farmers Post would eliminate costs, including supply chain markups or fees.” We call that a win-win-win.

 

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