Last month, the Strolling of the Heifers released its 2012 Locavore Index, and New Jersey ranked a sad 48th in the nation in “how states compare in their commitment to raising and eating locally grown food.”
That low ranking has a lot of us here in the Garden State who are involved in the local food movement scratching our heads. We see great things going on with local foods, like the peach rescue program that New Jersey peach farms, the Food Bank of South Jersey, Campbell Soup, and the local farmer’s cooperative Eastern Propak are cooking up.
Southern New Jersey grows a lot of peaches, but peaches bruise easily. One million pounds of peach waste from fruit that isn’t “perfect enough” end up in local landfills each year. The peach rescue program will divert those imperfect peaches from the landfill to the farmer’s cooperative where they will be prepped and sent to Campbell Soup in Camden, N.J. Campbell’s (a huge supporter of the Food Bank of South Jersey) will turn the peaches into shelf stable salsa, and the food bank will sell the salsa to local grocery stores and farmers markets.
Collingswood Patch reports that Campbell’s expects to produce 63,000 to 69,000 jars of the peach salsa in the first year, and they’ll do it for free. That’s a lot of rescued local peaches, diverted landfill waste, salsa, and proceeds that will help the Food Bank of South Jersey serve over 170,000 local residents each month.
I’m very impressed with this peach rescue program, and I can’t wait to purchase my first jar of the peach salsa when it becomes available – I assume sometime in late summer after peach season is in full swing. I’m also looking forward to seeing if the program is successful enough to create similar programs with other crops in the region. Apparently, if the 2012 Locavore Index is accurate, we here in New Jersey have a long way to go with our commitment to local foods.