Santa Cruz CountySecond Harvest Food Bank (SHFB) and its network of more than 70 partner agencies, including nonprofit organizations such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters, are working hard to combat food insecurity.
But due to new requirements imposed by Senate Bill 1383, they have needed to adjust over the past few months.
For years, Santa Cruz County supermarkets and other vendors have been providing surplus edible food to Food Recovery Organizations (FROs), including Food Bank member agencies, and the SHFB has recently stepped up to offer more support as they navigate SB 1383.
SB 1383 aims to significantly reduce food waste and methane emissions. According to the California Department of Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), it will have the equivalent effect of taking 2 million cars off the road for a year.
The climate change action bill was originally passed in California in 2016. Its first requirements went into effect on January 1, mandating “…a new set of regulations and conditions for commercial food generators (grocers stores, food distributors) Food Service Providers, Wholesale Food, said Miles Kleiman, Director of Food Resources at SHFB,
Kleiman added that SB 1383 seeks to reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills, an important endeavor because organic waste is the most common type of material disposed of.
That’s because decomposing food emits greenhouse gases like methane, which is 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. When released into our atmosphere, it can raise temperatures and lead to wildfires, droughts and sea level rise.
CalRecycle aims to reduce organic waste disposal by 75% by 2025.
Food that is redirected to the community stays out of landfills, Kleiman said, adding that CalRecycle has set a goal of increasing recovery of edible food by 20% by 2025.
“This is the role of FRO organizations such as the partner agencies of SHFB,” he said.
Help the food bank
To help the Santa Cruz County community, the SHFB is focusing on California’s new Edible Food Recovery Program, which requires edible food generators to donate as much of their surplus edible food as possible.
This means that all store foods and other food companies usually discarded due to imperfections, such as cosmetic problems or impending expiration dates, should be donated rather than wasted, Kleiman said.
Kleiman said the fund is working with the City of Watsonville, the City of Santa Cruz, the City of Scotts Valley, the City of Capitola and the unincorporated county of Santa Cruz, all of which have worked to reach donors and FROs.
Using data collected from the SHFB and its partner agencies, local jurisdictions are completing the first edible food recall report, due October 1, which will cover the total amount of edible food recovered between January 1 and June 30.
Fund staff also visited partner agencies and donors to discuss SB 1383 and its new implications.
SHFB Agency Network team members typically accompany Klieman to partner agency locations, where they meet with Food Program Managers to voice new requirements and learn how to best support their operations.
Gray Bears is one such agency.
“The SHFB team has done a lot to help us on the data side of the new law,” said Gray Bears Program Director Danielle Wong. “Gray Bears have been restoring food for nearly 50 years, so we are excited to see this new law being enacted across California. It comes with a lot of data reports that the SFHB has helped us with.”
By society, by society
Kleiman says he’s also seen a commitment to fighting food insecurity at the grocery store and supermarket level.
“A store manager recounted that he and his family had been dependent on the support of the food bank while he was growing up,” Kleiman said. “His experiences motivate him to increase the donations his store can make. Elsewhere, a department manager explained to me that he recently had to move to Gilroy due to high rent, but in the same conversation, he suggested an innovative way to make more food available to donate at the Santa Cruz County store “.
Proponents of the new law hope that SB 1383 will lead to a significant increase in the food available to support food security.
“Access to food is a basic human right,” Kleiman said. “The fact that so many people are denied this right is mind-boggling, especially given the exorbitant wealth that a small segment of our country’s population possesses.”