By Abraham Zavala-Rodriguez, WCLP Outreach & Advocacy Associate
One in five Californians suffers from chronic hunger, but a growing food rescue effort is poised to shrink that number.
About two years ago, one of the most significant waste reduction mandates went into effect across the state. SB 1383 ambitiously seeks to reduce organic waste by 75% by 2025. This means that around 20 million tons of potential waste may soon be diverted from landfills to kitchen tables.
Throughout California, municipalities are setting up programs to ensure that grocery stores, produce marts, corporate kitchens, schools, and other commercial food generators set protocols to inspect leftover food before it spoils and see that it reaches those who are hungry as fresh as possible. For years prior to SB 1383, many food generators resisted donating food. Now with legislation, a robust network of waste reduction programs and streamlined donation processes, support is growing.
For example, Food Finders, which has a network of over 470 partners across five counties in Southern California, has been helping food generators comply with the mandate. In particular, they facilitate same-day, donor-to-recipient delivery of edible foods.
Thanks to SB 1383, food rescue programs reach out to organizations to ensure organizations know how to communicate with local public works departments to help them become compliant. During the COVID-19 epidemic, enforcement lagged, but the work of educating food donors is back on track.
When Food Finders engages with new partners, it provides guidance that includes defining what is “edible” food. Presently, the definition can vary, say, from store to store, because there is no federally mandated expiration date. One store may pull food three days before expiration date, others may pull it the day of. The next step for averting food waste? Federal expiration standards.
A recent study found that more than 90% of Americans misinterpret food labels, leading to the disposal of perfectly good food. This, in many ways, exacerbates the issue of “donation dumping.”
As the work in food recovery continues without a federal mandate clarifying what is spoiled, we must remind ourselves: if you won’t eat it, don’t donate it.