Redwood City, California-based Impossible Foods this week launched a program to help feed communities where it does business by partnering with food banks that serve those affected by food insecurity.
The food technology startup is partnering with two California food banks, Alameda County Community Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, to serve plant-based meat to San Francisco Bay Area residents who receive assistance from food bank meal programs. Starting this week, the Impossible Burger is being served at meal centers in Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Impossible Foods has committed to provide regular deliveries of plant-based meat to these regional food banks. The meat comes from Impossible Foods’ first large-scale manufacturing plant, a 67,000-s.f. former bakery on the east side of Oakland.
“We are still ramping up and enjoy strong demand for our product from chefs and restaurateurs—but at the same time, we know that people in our hometown regions are struggling to afford food that’s delicious and nutritious,” said Jessica Appelgren, VP of communication at Impossible Foods. “We wanted to launch partnerships very early in our growth curve to address food insecurity and give back to the communities where we live and work.”
Nourishing at-risk residents
One in seven Americans gets food from food banks, according to a “Hunger in America” study published by Feeding America, a national network of food banks. The rate of food insecurity is even higher in the high-cost San Francisco Bay Area, where—for instance—in Alameda County, a family of four needs to earn about $90,000 just to meet basic expenses.
Alameda County Community Food Bank serves 1 in 5 Alameda County residents by distributing food through a network of 200 food pantries, soup kitchens and other community organizations, as well as direct-distribution programs, including Children’s Backpack and Mobile Pantry. This year, the food bank will distribute the equivalent of 28 million meals.
“High-quality sources of protein are not only the most desired food items by our clients and the agencies serving them—they’re also the least frequently donated, and increasingly some of the most expensive for us to acquire,” said Wilken Louie, associate director of food resourcing. “The food bank depends on partnerships with local food businesses to meet the needs of our community. On behalf of the agencies we work with as well, we’re extremely grateful to be receiving regular donations from Impossible Foods to help fill this critical nutrition gap for many of our clients.”
The Impossible Burger has more protein than a conventional burger from cows, but it has a fraction of the environmental footprint and has zero cholesterol, says Impossible Foods.
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With an emphasis on nutritious food, Second Harvest distributes more fresh produce than almost any other food bank in the country. The Food Bank works with a network of 300 nonprofit partners at 905 sites and is one of the largest food banks in the nation. Second Harvest feeds more than a quarter million people in California’s Santa Clara and San Mateo counties every month.
“We have known for a long time that nutritious food—fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins—is the foundation for a healthy, productive life,” said Barbara Gehlen, director of food sourcing and inventory at Second Harvest. “Without it, kids can’t learn at school and adults struggle to focus at work, making it harder to get ahead.”
Making the ‘Impossible’ possible
The Impossible Burger smells, cooks and tastes like ground beef from cows, says Impossible Foods, but it’s made entirely from plants, with a much smaller environmental footprint than meat from animals. It has no hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol or artificial flavors, and it uses 75 percent less water, generates 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and requires 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows.
To teach the food bank’s partners how to serve the Impossible Burger, award-winning San Francisco Bay Area chefs Chris Kronner of KronnerBurger in Oakland and Rocco Scordella of Vina Enoteca in Palo Alto conducted a training session in preparation for the program launch. Personnel experimented with the Impossible Burger, creating recipes ranging from meatballs to tacos.
Impossible Foods employee volunteers are encouraged to join the food bank chefs to cook and serve the burger at participating food banks throughout the year.