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Reducing food waste in Oakland schools

 

Director Dana Frasz hands out surplus food and milk to students and families at Brookfield Elementary

Director Dana Frasz hands out surplus food and milk to students and families at Brookfield Elementary

Bo hands 7 year-old Ana a tray with a slice of pepperoni pizza, a package of baby carrots, an apple, and a carton of milk. There are traces of icing on Ana’s face from a special birthday party her class had that day- her tiny belly still full of vanilla cake and confetti sprinkles. Bo, an experienced kitchen manager, wearily eyes the multiple trays of remaining pizza behind the line. Usually there’s not even a slice left but because of the party, lots of kids are foregoing lunch to catch up with their friends, hands busy telling stories instead of wrapped around forks. That day there will be 120 pounds of food that is not eaten.

Last year most of the food that could not be returned to the cafeteria, any milks, perishable items or fruit that might not make it to the next day, would get thrown away. Now though, thanks to a partnership between Food Shift and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) that food will be put into a freezer until it is distributed back to the students and their families the next afternoon.

Food Shift has recovered and redistributed over 4,700 pounds of food since beginning the program in May, 2013. We are currently running the program at the shared cafeteria of New Highland Academy and RISE Community School, where Bo oversees the kitchen. We are working with four additional schools and plan to have the program running on six campuses by May 2014.

A child and her mother pick up food as part of the cafeteria food recovery program.

A child and her mother pick up food as part of the cafeteria food recovery program.

The goal of Food Shift’s school food program is to reduce the environmental, financial and social costs of wasted food while feeding community members who may not have adequate access to food, specifically students and their local communities. Food Shift is carefully tracking the program’s progress and best practices with the intent to replicate it in school districts across the country. The program has two primary tracks: “Food for Kids” which distributes the food back to the student’s families and “Food for Community Partners” in which connects organizations like soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food pantries pick up the edible food and distribute it to the local community.

We’re so excited about our work with OUSD and building off the successful Green Gloves Sorting Program. OUSD recognizes the high value of this surplus food as a resource that should be used in the important work of feeding our hungry community instead of ending up in the landfill. They are committed to working towards their waste diversion goals and know that diverting food waste is a socially responsible strategy to get there.

Read more about the program in East Bay Express’ story: Saving School Lunches.

Bio: Kelly is the Program Director at Food Shift.  She has PhD in Anthropology with a concentration in race, gender and social justice from American University.

 


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Posted in Blog, In the Media