New Horizons In Food Rescue Around California

By Food Waste Reduction Committee Members, Susan Miller Davis, Infinite Table and Susan Blachman, Blachman Consulting
In 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1383 which, among other things, requires 20 percent of edible food that is currently disposed in landfills and incinerators to be recovered for human consumption by 2025. CalRecycle is holding workshops on May 7 and 8 to share draft regulatory language with which local jurisdictions will have to comply, to discuss the implementation process and solicit feedback. Although the regulations will not take effect until 2022, they will be adopted in 2019 to allow regulated entities approximately three years to plan and implement necessary budgetary, contractual, and other programmatic changes.

Local jurisdictions are beginning to mobilize resources – here are a few examples of local efforts underway:

Los Angeles: The City of Los Angeles has incorporated food recovery into its new franchise agreement. Under the agreement, the haulers are required to partner with local non-profit organizations to set up Food Rescue and Materials Reuse Programs. In exchange for recovery services and estimates of tonnage recovered, each hauler is obligated to donate to their subcontracted reuse organizations at least $1,000 per 100 customers in their service zones.  The exact amount given to each organization and the tonnages recovered or services provided in exchange is negotiated between each hauler and nonprofit individually. The program began January 2018.

Alameda County: ALL IN Alameda County is an innovation incubator within county government, a multi-stakeholder collaborative, working together to end poverty. One goal of All In is to establish a professionalized, paid food recovery sector, including job training. Towards that end, All In will be rolling out a 3 month food rescue pilot using two refrigerated vehicles purchased by the county.  Drivers will be recruited and hired from Peralta Service Corporation (PSC), the Unity Council’s social enterprise, and trained by the County Environmental Health Department on safe food handling. The program will recover food (fresh produce) from local farmers’ markets and deliver it to two recipient organizations: the Unity Council and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates. The plan is to continue the program once the three months is up, and including evaluating how the project can be sustained.

Silicon Valley: Silicon Valley Food Rescue (SVFR), a joint venture initiative of Santa Clara County and Joint Venture Silicon Valley, is working to supplement existing food recovery and hunger relief efforts with its planned “A La Carte” pilot, which will recover prepared food from currently untapped sources and also deliver food to insecure residents in new, more convenient ways.   According to SVFR, A La Carte, which will pilot in the summer of 2018, is “a trendy looking food truck that will rescue surplus pre-packaged food from corporate and university campuses and deliver the food directly into neighborhoods where people in need have limited access to food.”  SVFR hopes to expand the pilot to cover the entire county.  The trucks do not contain cooking and washing facilities, so are designed to distribute pre-packaged food only.  According to SVFR, “the program is designed to offer a normal, dignified experience to those struggling to feed themselves and their families, always free of cost.”

City of San Diego: In order to help achieve the City of San Diego’s goal of achieving “Zero Waste” by 2040, the City has established a Food Waste Diversion Program which has diverted approximately 8,000 tons of food waste from the City’s landfill to date. Under this program, the 34 largest food providers donate food to local food banks; donors include the San Diego Convention Center, Airport, Zoo and Safari Park, and SeaWorld, along with several schools and universities. Many other sites also donate their surplus food. Donations represent approximately 8,000 meals per week. City staff’s experience indicated that the best way to overcome barriers to source reduction and food donation is to show businesses how much and what types of food they were sending to organics diversion via composting.

And…Food for Free provides out-of-state inspiration
Food for Free is a food rescue and redistribution non-profit operating in the Boston area since 1981.  Recently, in response to growing demand from local businesses seeking to donate prepared foods to comply with the 2014 statewide commercial food material disposal ban (similar to SB 1383), Food for Free introduced a prepared meals program.

The Food for Free kitchen processes about 900 lbs of donated, bulk frozen food per week, mostly from local university campus kitchens.  The team has developed a process for breaking down the frozen food into individual meals, similar to tv dinners, which are packaged, sealed and labeled, and then distributed to a number of recipient hunger relief agencies.  The meals have the advantage of being convenient for families and other food insecure residents – those living in SROs, hotels or couch surfing; the elderly; students – who have limited kitchen access or other barriers to cooking, as they can be easily heated in a microwave.

Program manager Fiona Crimmins describes the challenges of working with frozen product – the team has developed methods of breaking down the food that involves chisels, and can only work with food that separates in a manageable and appetizing way – but also the benefits in terms of extending the timeline for distributing the food.  Similar programs on the Tufts and Harvard campuses, fueled by student volunteers, are processing surplus campus cafeteria food into individual, refrigerated meals for easy distribution.

Zero Food Waste Forum – Coming Fall 2018
To learn more about model food recovery programs and prepare for compliance with Senate Bill 1383, consider attending the NCRA 2018 Zero Food Waste Forum this fall in the Bay Area.

If you are interested in serving on the steering committee or becoming a sponsor, contact Ruth Abbe at Ruth.Abbe@gmail.com.

Alameda County Food Bank – Big Slices of the Food Recovery Pie

By NCRA Food Waste Reduction Committee
For our report, Commercial Food Waste Reduction in Alameda County, we documented the amount of surplus food that was rescued and distributed in Alameda County. We estimated that about 5.7 million pounds of surplus food that was generated within the county was redistributed to feed hungry people in Alameda County in 2016.

A major player is the Alameda County Community Food Bank. As we documented in our report, the Food Bank runs the grocery rescue or Food Recovery Program which matches grocery stores to agencies (like food pantries) that distribute the surplus food (like individually wrapped salads, sandwiches, produce and food staples). Over 3.6 million pounds of food from over 100 donors was redistributed through the grocery rescue program in 2016. This grew to over 4 million pounds in 2017.

Since we published our report in July 2017, we learned about other sources of surplus food obtained by the Food Bank.

The Food Bank receives donations from large manufacturers and retail distributors, some of which might otherwise have been disposed. The Local Donation Program from Distributors and Manufacturers accounts for over 25% of the food that they distribute. This compares to about 12% from the grocery rescue program.The Local Donation Program has grown by 2.2 million pounds over the last two years, with last fiscal year totaling 6.2 million pounds.  About 40% of this product is produce, and overall, it consists of a fair mix of dry goods, fresh bread/tortillas, fresh dairy, fresh juice, frozen product (meat, meals, etc.). The Food Bank works with about 20 donation partners throughout the county weekly, and averages about 630,000 pounds of surplus food redistributed per month.

About 45% of the food that the Food Bank distributes comes from the California Association of Food Banks Farm to Family Program which distributed 164 million pounds of surplus produce to 43 food banks statewide and partnered with more than 135 farmers to access 44 different crops (which might otherwise have been wasted or ploughed under). This surplus food is generated outside of Alameda County, but feeds hungry people in county and throughout the state.

Senate Bill 1383 requires local jurisdictions to up the ante on food rescue and ensure that 20% of currently disposed edible food is recovered for human consumption in 2025. As the state identifies priorities for food rescue, it will need to consider the role of the large, traditional sources of surplus food (farms, manufacturers, and distributors) compared to the smaller, more difficult-to-address sources of surplus food (such as restaurants, schools, corporate cafeterias, and caterers).

Thank you Caroline Chow, Food Resource Development Coordinator, Alameda County Community Food Bank for contributing to this piece.

 

NCRA and SWANA GRC Fall Happy Hour

NCRA and SWANA GRC Fall Happy Hour

Uproar Brewing Company, San Jose

Thursday, October 5th, 4:30pm-7:00

Join the Northern California Recycling Association and Solid Waste Association of North America’s Gold Rush Chapter for a happy hour mixer and a chance to meet and mingle with others with similar interests! 

The event is Thursday, October 5th from 4:30-7:00pm at the Uproar Brewing Company in downtown San Jose.  This is a new brewery in San Jose in a hip, laid-back warehouse-style space. Parking is validated from ParkSJ parking garages, and there is also metered street parking available. It’s about a 20 min transit trip from the Diridon Caltrain station. There are also stops nearby for bus and light rail.

Appetizers and the first round of drinks will be provided (sponsored by NCRA and SWANA Gold Rush Chapter). All members and potential members are welcome. Please feel free to share this with other professionals in the environmental industry, and college students interested in our industry.

No RSVP is required. We hope to see you there!