In South Florida, a growing number of people are facing the challenge of securing enough food for their families. This worrying trend was highlighted in a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which noted an increase in food insecurity in the region. The rise in food prices, although not solely responsible, contributes significantly to this issue. Yet, within this grim reality, a movement spearheaded by a group of businesses is emerging to tackle this problem.

One such business is SQUAREAT, a Miami Beach-based fast-service restaurant known for its healthy meal options. Co-founder Maria Vacaflores, a native of Bolivia, was inspired by her upbringing in a household where wasting food was considered taboo. She recalls her earlier days in the food industry, where she witnessed food wastage firsthand. “I’ve been in this business for like eight years and I’ve seen

it when I was not the owner,” Vacaflores said. “I was just working there. I was like no. I’ll take it home. Give it to me.” This experience reinforced her commitment to value every bit of food at SQUAREAT.

The USDA study sheds light on the paradox in the food industry, particularly in areas like Miami. While food insecurity is on the rise, an astonishing 40% of all food in the U.S. is wasted, according to Feeding America. This staggering statistic highlights the disconnect between food availability and accessibility. Sarah Soteroff, who manages

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public relations in North America for the “Too Good to Go” app, emphasizes this point: “If you can’t afford it, it doesn’t really matter how much great food there is to have.” Her company addresses this issue by connecting consumers with surplus food from local businesses at reduced prices.

In South Florida, “Too Good to Go” has already enlisted over 150 restaurants, including SQUAREAT, to participate in this innovative solution. One of these establishments is Janette & Co., a bakery specializing in fresh-baked French macaroons using ingredients imported from France. Owner Alejandra Barrera faced a unique challenge: her hotel and restaurant clients demanded perfect-looking products, leading to a significant amount of wastage due to minor imperfections.

“The crust on the delicate treats often cracks,” Barrera explained, which could leave the bakery with hundreds of pounds of leftovers. Recognizing the paradox of food waste amidst hunger, she decided to join forces with “Too Good to Go.” “There’s people who are wanting food and here we are throwing away food,” she said. “We don’t want to do that. We wanted to avoid that at all costs.”

The initiative has been a win-win for businesses like Janette & Co. and SQUAREAT, and the broader community. These businesses are witnessing new, repeat customers and a significant waste reduction. More importantly, they are playing a pivotal role in addressing the growing problem of food insecurity in South Florida. While these efforts are laudable, they also highlight the need for systemic solutions to ensure that everyone has access to enough nutritious food.

As the USDA study and the efforts of these local businesses demonstrate, food insecurity in South Florida is a complex issue that requires multifaceted solutions. By reducing food waste and making surplus food available to those in need, businesses like SQUAREAT and “Too Good to Go” are setting an example of how local actions can make a significant impact in combating food insecurity.