County Leadership in Food Recovery

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The challenge I’m about to describe is not new. In fact, your own county may be attacking this matter already, and there are organizations like ReFED, the Food Recovery Network, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the EPA and others that are heavily invested in solving the issue with education and science-based recommendations. For this, we are grateful and acknowledge these good works.

Still, the matter I’m about to describe is a proving-ground for local leadership.

Waste Food

The challenge I refer to is food waste, and the problem of food waste streams. A waste stream is a specific category of waste, defined by its sources and its terminus. One waste stream of note is food. It originates in our homes, schools, groceries, and restaurants. It too often ends up in a landfill.

According to the USDA, approximately 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail stores, restaurants, and homes went uneaten in 2010. At the same moment, the USDA also reports that there are 47 million food insecure individuals in the U.S. Much of this food may be deemed wholesome, and could possibly be redistributed to feed individuals and families.

One promising method to divert part of this waste stream harnesses technology to pair restaurants with wholesome food available for donation to food pantries, food banks and those organizations with similar missions. Think Tinder for wholesome food — swipe right to match!

In a local outreach to permitted food facilities and food pantries, a large urban health department isolated several reasons these pairings may not occur naturally:

  • Concerns of Liability – If a consumer subsequently gets ill, who is liable?
  • Lack of Infrastructure – Packaging, transporting, and maintaining temperature require additional resources
  • Lack of Connections – Who should I call? Who can I trust?

A Food Recovery App, developed, maintained, and promoted by the county is emerging as an ideal solution to show regional leadership while addressing many of the identified impediments.

You see, by deploying modern apps under the county’s banner, the following complications may be addressed:

  • Liability Concerns – The county may integrate important messaging about State and Federal Good Samaritan laws
  • Liability Concerns – The county may specify safe food handling practices
  • Liability Concerns – The county may call-out donors with active health permits
  • Lack of Connections – The apps become a friction-free pairing of donors to recipients

The county is uniquely-positioned to facilitate these connections, reducing food waste, reducing landfill mass, and reducing hunger. It’s a welcome hallmark of local leadership.

The NACo 2018 Annual Conference will feature a Ted-Talk style review of this project and other compelling examples. Please join us!

Friday, July 13 1:00 pm to 1:25 pm Addressing Food Waste: Leadership + Technology

This session will examine how County Environmental Health leaders are addressing the problems surrounding food waste, which include Food Insecurity, Organic Waste Streams, Food Safety, and Corporate Liability. Speaker: Darryl Booth, SVP/General Manager, Accela

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