We are excited about the launch of our latest program in combating hunger and food waste in Butte County, the 530 Food Rescue Coalition! It is community action at its best and we want to share it with you.
This effort is a partnership that the Community Action Agency of Butte County, Inc. has created with the Center for Healthy Communities.
In an interview with KZFR Radio, Center for Healthy Communities' Health Education Specialist, Sheila McQuaid, talked about how the project came to be, what the focus of the 530 Food Rescue Coalition (530 FRC) will be, and what that means for our community.
A Meeting of the Minds
While at the annual Butte County Office of Education California Kid Anti-hunger Summit, McQuaid "bumped into" our own Timothy Hawkins who was already looking into getting a food rescue operation going using the federal funding we had received.
Fighting hunger is a constant battle. With our area's recent tragedies in the last three years, it is one that the CAA is very familiar with. The conservative estimates for Butte County show that 1 in 4 children and 20% of Californians are food insecure or hungry.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. It is important to know that though hunger and food insecurity are closely related, they are distinct concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level. -Feeding America
There are resources to help distribute food to those in need, like the CAA’s North State Food Bank. However, there is still a gap and people aren't able to access the available resources due to hurdles like transportation or access to information.
The 530 FRC will combat hunger and food insecurity by better managing food within the system. This purpose is unique in that it affects the entire food cycle rather than increase the supply of food or combat the monetary cost of food for consumers.
Though in the infancy of creation, the goal of the 530 FRC will be to maximize the current food supply in our communities and reduce greenhouse gasses that come from organic waste in landfills. It is not a gleaning project that utilizes food that was unharvested. We are targeting food headed for the landfill.
What's the Big Idea
Food that is still edible will be redirected to agencies and food pantries so it can still be used to feed others. Food that is no longer edible will be used in a productive way that doesn't create more greenhouse gasses in a landfill. These are options like using it for compost or animal feed in local farms.
We will be using funding from California's SB 1383 that mandates the diversion of organic waste from landfills. Organic waste actually makes up a lot of the greenhouse gases that come from landfills and this bill seeks to change that.
The 530 FRC will help support Butte County in reaching its mandated goals of a 75% reduction in organic waste in landfills and a 20% recovery of edible food for human consumption.
Our county professionals are working hard to do this, for example Recology has been working on composting project. However, they cannot do it alone and that is where CAA and the CHC come in.
What it Could Look Like
We are working to pilot special software that would change the way food is distributed around the county. The software is one that other communities around the country are using and it's called Food Rescue US. We want to create a platform that would make donating and volunteering easier.
The software would help people be able find places to donate food, make donating food easier, and help social agencies that distribute food claim donations and redistribute them. It takes a lot of time and energy to put together physical food donation drives and events so this strategy could help reduce that. We aren't sure exactly what it will look like, but this is the hope.
You may think that organic waste can just compost in a landfill but that isn't the case! Taking the organic waste and using it specifically for compost efforts will cut down on greenhouse gasses. Composting at home is highly encouraged, but if it isn't your thing, the county is looking into curbside pick-up options.
Going full circle, local gardens and farmers could use the local composting materials to put back into their crops that feed us already. Compost is expensive, but by sourcing from our local communities we can reduce the cost and local leaders of community gardens and farmers can benefit from these programs while giving back.
The 530 FRC could also be a great way to engage our local student population. Students are excited at the prospect and project of food rescue. This is also an ample opportunity for anyone to be able to volunteer on a time that fits their schedule. If someone has a half hour to donate their time, they can pick up a donation and distribute it.
Someone who commutes from Magalia or Oroville to Chico would be able to pick up a donation and deliver it to someone who lives in more rural areas of their community and has less access to food.
Grocers, restaurant owners and farmers could also take part because this effort is aimed at the entire food system. Restaurants can donate their food or left over produce, farmers could opt in for waste for their compost or feed needs.
This program has the opportunity to connect people in a way that we think they are craving. Helping feed one another and taking care of our fellow community members goes beyond food and the food cycle.
Be on the lookout for future press releases and social media posts as the 530 Food Rescue Coalition continues to grow and develop!