HSU Outlines Food Donation Strategy to Curb Waste

The California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University has issued a series of policy options to encourage food donations, pare considerable local waste and stem the region’s food insecurity.

In “Think Twice: Food or Trash,” CCRP Health Policy Analyst Melissa R. Jones points to the successful donation strategies of grocery chains such as Albertson’s and Ralph’s that partner with soup kitchens, shelters and pantries.

Similarly, nonprofit food rescue programs can help to coordinate, deliver and serve both perishable and prepared food to the hungry. Rescue agencies can also furnish transportation, picking up food and moving it to designated distribution centers.

These sorts of connections can be made on either an as-needed basis or a systematic basis, Jones writes. Businesses can donate leftovers from catered lunch meetings or distributors can arrange on a set schedule to collect food daily from grocers and restaurants.

Prepared food can be routed to nonprofits and the hungry without a formal system. Jones cites Harrington House in Del Norte County, which takes in prepared food donations from both small and large businesses.

The CCRP analysis presents statewide estimates showing that California counties, including the North Coast’s, lose substantial amounts of food from both business and household waste. For businesses, Humboldt County’s percent of food in the waste stream is 34.3; Del Norte’s 42.6; Mendocino’s 35.1; Trinity’s 31.6.

As for domestic waste, “in each county of California,” says the CCRP analysis, “it is estimated that 20% of household waste is food.”

Supermarkets figure prominently in the losses. Statewide estimates suggest that wasted food accounts for up to 63 percent of a typical grocer’s total waste stream.

Shoring up rural food donations is particularly important, says Jones, because rural families are more at risk of food shortages and insecurity. Families unable to feed themselves adequately are at greater risk of disease. They are more prone to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

As of 2009, food insecurity was estimated at 21 percent in Humboldt County, 35 percent in Mendocino and 24 percent in Del Norte and Trinity Counties.

With California’s economy forecast to limp along indefinitely, “Now is the perfect time to try re-routing healthy food and not leave it to rot,” Jones says. “This is especially true since local nonprofits that rely on government funding may be less able to provide enough food to meet increased demand, and monetary donations become rarer in a recession.”

“Think Twice: Food or Trash?” is posted at www.humboldt.edu/ccrp.