By Marc Cortes
The Mirror Staff
Waste No More
November 13, 2017
CALIFORNIA: A new state law allows schools to donate unopened food.
Up until now, the district hasn’t had much of a plan to deal with all of the green bananas, lentil burritos and pint-sized cartons of milk that are thrown away by tens of thousands of students each school day.
A new state law went into effect in September that allows school campuses to collect unopened food items and untouched fruit and donate them to food banks or any other non-profit organizations.
Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) serves about 650,000 meals per day, but about $100,000 worth of food is thrown out every day. This amounts to approximately 600 tons of organic waste generated every week by the district.
Schools can now open “share-table” stations where students can leave unopened food or beverage items that they choose not to eat. Food on share-tables will be available to any students throughout lunch time, providing additional helpings at no extra cost.
The share-table leftovers and any other unopened food items that are not served will then be donated to food banks.
Van Nuys High School has been using the share table concept for some time now, according to Cafeteria Manager Ms. Maria Rodriguez. “Yes, we’ve been doing that for a long time,” she said.
This law, pushed for and sponsored in the state legislature by LAUSD, is aimed at reducing the amount of food waste generated by schools while at the same time helping out the millions of Californians who don’t have enough to eat.
Approximately 5.4 million Californians—2.3 million of which are children—do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
The homeless population of LA County, one the largest in the country, also relies on donated food.
The law aims to stop tons of perfectly edible food from going to landfills, instead redirecting it to food banks and those who need it most.
“I think this law is fantastic,” said LAUSD Food Service Director Joseph Vaughn. “It removes several barriers that have made it difficult to donate food”.
This is not the first effort LAUSD has made to reduce the amount of food wasted in schools.
The district loosened its ban on chocolate and strawberry milk in October 2016 to encourage students to drink milk instead of wasting it. But the district has been extremely slow to implement the change at many campuses, including Van Nuys High School.
Unflavored milk, which accounts for a large amount of the district’s daily waste, is still being served during Breakfast in the Classroom as well as during lunch and after school, which students pass up in favor of juice drinks.
Otherwise, according to Ms. Rodriguez, food waste at Van Nuys High School is not a huge problem.
“Very little unserved food is actually wasted, maybe about 25 meals each day. This is because we’ve calculated the amount of food we serve every day and only put out about enough,” she said.
Ultimately the new law will not completely resolve the wasted food problem, but it is a concrete effort to better address the issue.