Written by: Allie Hoffman, Program Manager with Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and Ally Lemmer, FoodCorps CA Fellow
Those of us who have spent time in a school cafeteria have likely seen trash bags bulging with uneaten food. And it’s not just a problem at schools! As according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash. And potentially more staggering, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption [worldwide] is lost or wasted. With the constant struggle to reduce food waste through the state and nation, many programs, both public and private, are now implementing creative ways to educate others about the environmental and economic impacts of food waste. To address food waste, we have curated a list of 5 things you should know about this issue and how you can reduce waste in the cafeteria or at home while still supporting your local community.
- Trash Free Lunch Challenge: Thanks to the Trash Free Lunch Challenge, hosted by non-profit organization Grades of Green, public schools in Los Angeles compete to determine which school can reduce the most school lunch waste over the course of an academic year. One of the schools is Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Academy in Altadena, CA, where FoodCorps service member, Rachel Black has implemented a school-wide composting initiative in the cafeteria. Every Friday you can find Rachel educating students about what items on the lunch line are compostable and recyclable. The compost is then transferred to the school garden just less than 100 feet away. To learn more, read her story here.
- Donate leftover food to charitable programs! Schools can “recycle” foods, from setting up “sharing tables” where students can place unopened packaged food and/or whole fruits and vegetables, to donating unserved prepared food to food pantries, there are lots of avenues to keep food out of the landfill and feed hungry people at the same time. For more info, visit Cal Recycle.
- Federal support for food waste reduction: In September, the EPA and USDA joined together to establish the first US Food Waste Reduction Goal, with the goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030!
- Use produce that’s not quite perfect: Even though Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have been around for quite some time, Imperfect Produce, a new SF Bay Area based start-up, puts a spin on the traditional CSA model by reselling ugly produce, or “cosmetically-challenged produce,” to help reduce food waste. Similarly, a new marketplace called Souper Seconds is just getting off the ground, with the goal of providing a distribution channel for seconds and surplus produce.
- Gleaning to reduce waste in the field: New Hampshire Farm to School has created a NH Gleans program, harvesting food that would otherwise go unharvested for schools, food pantries and community feeding programs. It’s a win win for farmers who want to feed their communities, but would otherwise see food rot in their fields when they can’t harvest fast enough.
If you have a reducing food waste initiative happening in your own community in California, we would love to hear about it! Please send stories along to firstname.lastname@example.org.