The biggest source of food waste in America is households, where produce wilts, milk spoils, and leftovers lurk at the back of the fridge until they are tossed. Now, anxious consumers who have been hoarding food may discover there’s no way they can eat everything they’ve bought. Says Frank Franciosi, of the U.S. Composting Council, “We may see municipal curbside collection of food waste go up as more people eat in or take out.”
Indeed, San Francisco, which has long collected both residential and commercial food scraps from curbsides, has already seen an impact. “People are cooking more at home,” says Robert Reed, of Recology, the company that handles the city’s discards. “Tonnages of food scraps from single-family homes and apartments are up.” New York City’s curbside collection of food scraps has also seen an uptick over the past two weeks.
Then there are farms, where, even in the best of times, growers leave as much as half their crops in the field, largely because of cosmetic imperfections. Now, produce growers fear that even more crops will go unharvested. U.S. immigration policy has constrained visas for workers entering the country, and the arrival of 200,000 seasonal migrants is in doubt. And because living conditions for farm laborers are crowded, making them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, illness could keep many from working once they arrive.