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It was estimated that 35 million people in the United States were food insecure before the COVID-19 pandemic. The number has only increased since then. A new law in San Diego could set the stage for how the country approaches food waste.
According to Recycle Track Systems, the U.S. discards more food than any other country— nearly 40 million tons, which is 80 billion pounds every year. That’s estimated to be 30-40% of the entire U.S. food supply. That equates to about 219 pounds of waste per person.
In San Diego, thousands of pounds of food go through a Feeding San Diego facility every day. Patty O’Connor, the chief supply chain officer at Feeding San Diego, says her dad was a huge inspiration to the work she’s doing now.
New law inspired by good samaritan
“My father, who is no longer with us, was doing his own rescue, like fifteen, twenty years ago. He was going to the Trader Joe’s every Tuesday and Saturday morning at 6:30 to pick up their leftover food because he knew they were going to throw it away. And he and another elderly gentleman would drive it to a local catholic charity actually, and give it to them every Tuesday and every Friday.” O’Connor said. “He was ahead of the curve. He did that until the day he died,” she said.
San Diego’s new law will take effect at the beginning of 2022. Grocery stores and other food suppliers will be required to donate all edible food waste to a food rescue organization or food bank.
“The big picture of the law is really wonderful, it’s a win-win all around,” O’Connor said.
Ralph’s Director of Corporate Affairs, John Votava, talks about how the grocery chain has been participating in the work for more than four years.
“It really is possible”
“The main thing that we felt was validation,” Votava said. “Because we had started our zero hunger zero waste social impact plan at all of our stores through the Kroger company but specifically here for Ralphs and this is what we’ve been doing now since 2017, collecting that food and making sure it stays out of landfills and gets into the hands of people who need it the most.”
Since this bill was announced, O’Connor says they have received call after call from suppliers who had yet to get involved with food rescue.
“It’s something that people just weren’t realizing. First of all, how much food is wasted every day in our state and in our country, but also how it’s not that hard to donate it. If you have a process in place like we have, and you work with a food recovery organization like Feeding San Diego, Feeding America banks throughout California, it really is possible to do it,” O’Connor said.