A million pounds of unwanted peaches found a new life this summer—diverted from the dump, they went instead to Campbell Soup in Camden, which teamed up with the Food Bank of South Jersey to create a shelf-stable peach salsa and a new source of income for the Food Bank.
Now, with upwards of 20,000 jars sold and more going out on shelves every day, Just Peachy may be just the start of finding new ways to raise money for those in need.
“We needed to find a revenue source that was self-sustaining,” Food Bank CEO Val Traore said. “Just Peachy is a perfect way for us to raise…non-traditional revenue.”
With other local produce suffering a similar fate—whether strawberries or blueberries or any of a litany of others—Traore said there’s room to expand.
“This is the beginning,” she said. “We are looking at taking other produce and diverting it from the landfills.”
The move to find a solution to the problem of wasted food and the need to feed local families was met with praise from local legislators, including U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, who hit on the creativity of creating salsa from discarded peaches.
“This is such a wonderful example of people joining in that problem-solving effort,” Andrews said. “We’re turning waste into opportunity, and that’s a great thing.”
If Traore has her way, that opportunity will expand, and not just to other kinds of produce.
While Just Peachy came together with Campbell Soup’s pilot project in Camden, Traore has visions of expanding to something bigger—much bigger, in fact.
The Food Bank’s eventual goal is to take production in-house—potentially as soon as three years from now—to not only increase the amount of peach salsa and other products they can produce, but to get to the point where they can employ some of the out-of-work people who are among the 173,000 the organization supports now.
“It’s part of our charity-to-prosperity movement,” Traore said.
Ideally, it’ll involve South Jersey produce and South Jersey workers at a South Jersey manufacturing location—Traore called it the “perfect cycle” of charity-to-prosperity—if the Food Bank can find the funding to get such an effort off the ground and enough community support to make it happen.
The Food Bank is in the process of working with the United States Department of Agriculture on securing possible funding to get things going.
“We’ve got our fingers and toes crossed that we’ll get it,” Traore said. “We want to be a part of bringing manufacturing back to the region.”