The FarmLink Project, a grassroots movement connecting surplus food from farms to food banks across the country, is one example of the resourcefulness and resilience that have bloomed from the COVID-19 pandemic. As restaurants, schools, and offices remain closed due to the virus, farms have been forced to dispose of millions of pounds of unused food. The crisis has also put a strain on the nation’s food banks, which are experiencing steep declines in donations and a huge influx of hungry patrons.
By forging a connection between these 2 entities, FarmLink has delivered over 600,000 pounds of food and provided close to $70,000 in economic relief to farmworkers and truck drivers since its inception in April.
By covering delivery costs, Uber Freight is proud to help organizations like FarmLink move what matters during this crisis. Through the use of Uber Freight’s shipper platform, FarmLink has been able to quickly deliver loads in locations across the US, furthering its mission to get food to communities in need. The sheer volume of goods it has shipped thus far has been one of the pleasant surprises for the FarmLink team. “The scale is kind of hard to comprehend,” says co-founder Chad Kanoff. “And it’s only possible because we have Uber Freight.”
FarmLink began when Chad and fellow co-founders James Kanoff, AJ Weaver, Ben Collier, and Aiden Reilly were discussing how they could put government stimulus money to good use at the start of the pandemic. This led to conversations with local food banks in the Los Angeles area, illuminating the massive shortages in the community. Their first delivery became a rental truck full of eggs, saved from a farm’s trash heap and brought to LA’s Westside Food Bank by the Kanoffs and some friends. Spurred on by this initial success, they reached out to a struggling onion farmer featured in an article on pandemic food waste. Thanks to monetary donations from friends and acquaintances, they purchased some of his excess produce and redirected it to food banks as well.
Scaling the mission
In less than 2 months, FarmLink has grown from a scrappy idea, some cold-calls, and a couple of trucks to a full-fledged startup with 90 team members and counting. The majority of the FarmLink team is college students or recent graduates. Although AJ works in transportation technology, nobody on the team considers themselves to be trucking professionals, so the real challenge for the group became moving the food to where it needed to go.
AJ hoped that Uber Freight could help FarmLink scale without requiring hours of coordinating with different companies and truck drivers. “From the start, [the] team was amazing,” she recalls. “All of the pieces just coalesced, which was an overwhelming relief because … we’re trying to focus on the food and the farms.”
Uber Freight has since donated close to 20 loads to FarmLink’s cause (with more to come), including 17 pallets of potatoes to California’s Siskiyou County. Siskiyou was once named the hungriest county in the region and the most food-insecure in the state. Potatoes from this 42,500-pound load went to various citizens in the area, including some housebound seniors.
Shipper platform benefits
One of the keys to FarmLink’s fast growth has been the ease and flexibility of Uber Freight’s offerings. “We love the [Uber Freight] platform,” AJ says. “We joke that it’s just like [requesting a ride with] Uber. It’s an awesome experience for us who aren’t shippers by trade.” Of the many sub-teams that now make up the FarmLink organization, the work of the transportation team has become “the easiest and most predictable,” according to Chad.
For FarmLink, seeing which dates will be the most cost-effective over a 2-week period while being able to schedule shipments in advance has been extremely beneficial. Since produce deliveries also have stringent requirements, they appreciate the ability to easily enter details when creating a load, like trailer temperatures or whether a facility has receiving docks.
Although the founding team has been present at several deliveries, the seamlessness of the platform allows the transportation team to schedule them in places without needing to be there. Says Chad: “Uber Freight makes it happen.”
The future of FarmLink
When they look to what FarmLink can become, the founding team wants to ensure that it stays a sustainable stream of food and work outside of crisis times. While the pandemic persists, they’ll continue to service areas with the greatest demand. But they see a future where FarmLink fits into existing community infrastructures and continues to foster long-term relationships between farms and food banks. “We’ve only scratched the surface,” said AJ. “But food waste and food insecurity are not just COVID-19 problems.”
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To learn more about FarmLink, visit their website or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of FarmLink.