Despite living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, one in seven US residents is “food insecure”. These 48 million people struggle to reliably find food, even as the rest of the population throw out about 60m tonnes of it a year.

Typically America’s food-insecure population is also low-income and trapped in food deserts, where they lack fresh, healthy, affordable eating options. Residents of food deserts make up almost 18% of the population, or about 54.4 million people, who live more than half a mile away from the nearest supermarket in urban areas or more than 10 miles away in rural areas.

“It’s just ridiculous in a country that is as resource-rich as we are,” says 30-year-old Anu Samarajiva, a graduate student at Washington University in St Louis. “The issue isn’t a lack of food or a lack of resources, but of distribution, pickup and logistics.”

[Samarajiva’s] team’s proposal, which won the Urban SOS: Fair Share competition in January, envisages using the vast postal system network to improve food security in the US. Grocery stores and markets with surplus perishable foods would use the USPS app to schedule pickups, and USPS trucks that are either refrigerated or equipped with refrigerated bags would then deliver those pickups to hunger-relief organisations around the region. USPS offices, 17% of which have shuttered since 1971, could also be reconfigured as food-recovery storage and shopping centres.