Food Shift started a food recovery program with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in May 2013, and recovered a total of 14,000 pounds of food. Food Shift expanded the program to 13 different schools where excess edible food was collected from cafeterias and donated to three community food assistance organizations and to families from the schools. Using a calculator that Food Shift developed with BEACN (Bay Area Environmentally Aware Consulting Network) we discovered that the hidden value of the recovered food equates to $19,000, driving 10,492 miles in an average car, and almost 14 million liters of water!
Sixty nine parents participated in the OUSD food recovery program, primarily to feed their families and out of concern for the environment. Almost all of the participating parents reported that the program helped them save money and the majority of the participants said that they were likely to participate in the program next year.
One of the key lessons we took away from this program was just how much milk goes to waste at schools! More than half of the food recovered, over 7,000 pounds, was dairy products, mostly leftover milk cartons. Over the course of the program, Food Shift developed a relationship with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and was able to secure $10,000 for refrigeration in Oakland schools. Having a refrigerator at each site is essential so there is a place to store excess food so it doesn’t have to be picked up daily. While there was always plenty of food to pick up, and food assistance organizations were always in need of more food, there can be difficulties in terms of transporting and refrigerating food. Coordinating schedules with volunteers at the school and food assistance organizations can also be difficult.
Food Shift will be stepping away from the OUSD program to put more time and resources into upcoming projects such as the Andronico’s food recovery program. We tracked best practices and developed tools as part of an implementation guide, that we intend to circulate as a resource for other school districts in the Bay Area and throughout the country to develop similar programs. We welcome you to sign up for our newsletter, to be notified when the implementation guide is complete.
We would like to extend a warm thank you to everyone that helped make the program possible, including StopWaste.Org, Altamont Education Advisory Board, OUSD staff, and Nancy Deming, Sustainability Initiatives Manager at OUSD.