SAN DIEGO–San Diego Unified School District has been hailed as a leader in food waste reduction by the San Diego Food System Alliance, winning the UnWasted Food Award for the “Love Food Not Waste” pilot program.
The program offers an avenue for leftover food from the school meal program to be diverted from the landfill to local organizations facing food shortages. Focusing on reducing sources of food waste and recovering unused prepared food, the program has been widely successful.
The “Love Food Not Waste” program is a partnership between San Diego Unified and Feeding San Diego. Feeding San Diego coordinates with additional local partners, such as the San Diego Rescue Mission and a number of smaller organizations who are given the opportunity to pick up surplus food from production kitchens throughout the district.
“The EMIE Awards are designed to honor the legacy of Congressman Bill Emerson, sponsor of the 1996 Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. San Diego Unified School District is honored as a 2017 EMIE Award winner for their quantifiable achievement and innovation in Food Waste Reduction and Recovery,” said Barbara Hamilton from the San Diego Food System Alliance. “In addition to establishing a back-hauling program to pick up 59 tons of edible food leftover at their 171 schools and transporting it to their 19 production kitchens, where it is later picked up by Feeding San Diego agency partners, they also achieved a 66 percent reduction in salad bar food waste, estimated to be a savings of more than $200,000.”
Between September 2016 and June 2017, San Diego Unified rescued nearly 113,000 pounds of food from school breakfasts and lunches, equating to over 94,000 meals. In addition, over 61,000 pounds of CO2 was reduced from the atmosphere by saving this food from landfill disposal. The pilot program continued through the summer at production kitchens preparing meals for year-round schools, summer school, and other summer meal programs.
“This program is great for a variety of reasons,” said Gary Petill, Director of Food and Nutrition. “With just one program, San Diego Unified is saving food from waste, helping feed those that are hungry, and protecting the environment.”
The “Love Food Not Waste” program expanded in the 2017-18 school year to include after-school meals through a partnership with PrimeTime after-school programs and the district’s Extended Learning Opportunities Department.