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Food Shift, BALLE, and the Local Food Ecosystem

This June the Oakland community played host to the BALLE Conference; a three day gathering of local economic leaders, innovators and investors from across North America. Food Shift played a key role in making it a zero waste event, collecting and redistributing 658 lbs. of surplus food! The delicious donations included paella, chicken empanadas, vegetarian and meat lasagna and Strauss organic yoghurt. These fresh, cooked and wholesome organic meals were received by two local food assistance organizations in Oakland – St. Vincent de Paul and Crossroads Emergency Housing.

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Food Shift Director and St. Vincent de Paul load van with surplus food from conference.

Food Shift and the Sustainable Business Alliance, BALLE’s local host partner for the conference, began collaborating in early 2014 to meet the goal of zero waste for the conference.

“What made the whole experience even better was knowing that any food that was leftover was not going to waste. We were grateful and proud to know that Food Shift was thoughtfully packaging and delivering this healthy food to local people in need…To top it off, their staff was friendly, extremely competent, and made things easy for all involved. Every conference should include measures to reduce food waste and ensure people are getting fed when there are leftovers. Every organization that cares about people and planet should absolutely be ensuring food is recovered at their conferences and for those in the Bay Area, I recommend going with Food Shift.”   Erin Kilmer Neel, Sustainable Business Alliance, Oakland CA

Tina Tamale and several local pop-up food vendors supplied breakfast, lunch and dinner sourced from local and organic food at three venues.  Tina Tamale and crew were exceptionally generous and easy to work with providing reusable containers and facilitating the food packaging at meals’ end. Food Shift secured sponsorship to cover the food recovery costs from Clif Bar and Bi-Rite Market.

Coordinating food recovery for the BALLE conference illuminated some challenges within the food recovery space. Most food recovery groups and food assistance organizations provide a free service, depend on volunteer commitments to operate, and receive limited financial support.  Hours of operation are limited and organizations often lack the vehicles, drivers, or refrigeration to adequately collect, store and redistribute food.

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Chef at Lake Chalet happily assists with storing food from conference overnight.

As we prepared to recover food from the big BALLE welcome dinner on the first night we needed to find a place to donate or store the food after the event – around 11pm. We didn’t have access to the refrigerators at the Scottish Rite Center and at that time no food assistance organizations would be open.

“A light bulb went off as I brainstormed where we might find access to a refrigerator at 11pm,” Food Shift Founder and Director Dana Frasz said.  “I looked at Google Maps and directly across the street from the conference was Lake Chalet Restaurant.  I called, explained our situation, and asked if they would allow us to store food there overnight.” With only half a days notice their kitchen managed to create some space in their walk-in cooler.  At 11pm the Food Shift team drove about 350 lbs of food across the street and with the help of their staff we unloaded two carloads of food.  The Lake Chalet refrigerator stored all the surplus food until the next morning.

“Food Shift was great to work with. With 40% of all food in the US being wasted, Food Shift is not only giving others an opportunity to make an impact in their local community but is also generating some much needed public awareness to the epidemic proportions food waste has reached in the United States today.” Michael Baker, Executive Chef at Lake Chalet

This story so beautifully illustrates the extent to which an ecosystem problem requires an ecosystem solution. We know there are refrigerators, vehicles and storage space throughout the city that are under-utilized.  Food Shift would like to engage with businesses to identify those under-utilized resources and make use of them for the purpose of recovering and redistributing surplus food.  Additionally, we need to more adequately support and invest in infrastructure for the food recovery service sector as it provides huge value to our communities. If you and your business or organization has under-utilized refrigerators, vehicles or storage space please contact us at foodshift.net.

To learn more, you can also check out BALLE’s write-up of the event here.

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Food Shift has facilitated the donation of over 1700lbs. of food to St. Vincent de Paul in Oakland.


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Posted in Blog