Elly Brown, Director of San Diego Food System Alliance
Richard Winkler, Co-Chair of Alliance’s Food Recovery Working Group

By now you have probably been hearing a lot about food waste; like the fact that we waste about 40% of our food supply while millions of people don’t have enough to eat. September is Hunger Action Month and it’s timely to dive into this issue further.

The first step towards solving this is to understand that although we waste food, there is really no such thing as food “waste”. The word waste indicates something of no value, something we want to get rid of. But all food has value, at every step of its lifecycle. Food feeds people but it can also feed farm animals and soil. Even when it is past edibility, it feeds microorganisms that convert it into compost, recapturing the nutrients that feed plants. Healthy soil absorbs carbon from the atmosphere helping to mitigate climate change, and stores water, providing resilience against drought.  But when we treat food as if it were waste by putting it in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically and gives off methane, a much more potent GHG than CO2.

Many food-serving organizations in San Diego are demonstrating leadership in recapturing the value embedded in food.  Some of these leaders will be recognized with “Emies” awards to be given out on Tuesday, September 27th at the Food Waste Solution Summit II at the Jacobs Center organized by the San Diego Food System Alliance.

These awards were created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”, championed by Congressman Bill Emerson, to encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. Congressman Emerson died suddenly just before the bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The award aims to uphold his legacy of fighting food waste and hunger.

Following are recent larger efforts in San Diego County that move us closer to eliminating wasted food:

  • AB 1826, a state law mandating recycling of organic matter (food and yard materials), began implementation on April 2016 for the largest generators. SB1383 will be signed by Governor Brown this summer which mandates 75% organics diversion by 2025 with more monitoring by local governments.
  • The City of San Diego’s Miramar Greenery collects food for composting from approx. 80 large entities.
  • Specialty Produce, a wholesale produce distributor with over 800 restaurant customers all over the county recently launched Waste Not San Diego, a food recovery program. Leveraging their supply chain to reduce wasted food, the program allows participating restaurants to donate surplus prepared food which is distributed to nonprofit partners of the J&C San Diego Food Bank.
  • Starbucks just launched their food donation program, FoodShare, across 190 locations in San Diego County to provide unsold prepared food to Feeding America San Diego.
  • City of Oceanside is investing in a kitchen and processing facility in a senior center with the goal of processing food that would otherwise go to waste to create nutritious meals for food insecure individuals (at-risk youth, veterans, seniors, school feeding programs, etc).
  • The County is now developing a high-waste diversion and climate action plans with opportunities to include best practices to prevent waste and recapture the value of food, while building healthier soils. 

The Food Waste Solution Summit II on Tuesday, September 27th is a convening of advocates and multi-sector leaders in San Diego County committed to retiring the idea of waste when it comes to food. Our objective is to celebrate wins and strategize key actions to make a dent in the 700k tons of food going into landfill in San Diego County, recapturing the value of food for people, animals, and soil. Speakers include Chris Hunt of Rethink Food Waste though Economics and Data (ReFED), Darby Hoover of National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Hana Dansky of Boulder Food Rescue, Jordan Perkins of Solutions for Urban Ag, Brenda Platt of Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Cassie Bartholomew of StopWaste, Andre Villasenor of EPA, Jordan Figueiredo of #UglyReallyIsBeautiful, Elly Brown of San Diego Food System Alliance, Michael Wonsidler of County of San Diego, Jen Winfrey of County of San Diego, Mina Brown, Ana Carvalho of City of San Diego, Chuck Samuelson of Kitchens for Good, Jim Floros of San Diego Food Bank, Diane Moss of Project New Village, Richard Winkler of Victory Gardens, Nita Kurmins of ProduceGood, Karen Melvin of County of San Diego, Sarah Boltwala-Mesina and Susan Chambers of Inika Small Earth, Tracy Delaney of Public Health Alliance of Southern California, Diane Wilkinson of Hunger Advocacy Network, Allie Tarantino of Specialty Produce, Sarah Davis of City of Oceanside, Rich Flammer of Hidden ResourcesJessica Toth of Solana Center, Dave DiDonato of City of Chula Vista, Eric Larson of San Diego County Farm Bureau, Bill Prinz of City of San Diego, Joe Farace of County of San Diego, and many other event supporters!

The Summit will explore the following 7 Calls to Action for San Diego County

  1. County and Cities to invest in consumer education campaigns to change mindsets on wasting food
  2. County and Cities to incorporate carbon farming (roots), zero waste, and local foodshed strategies in Climate Action Plans
  3. County, Cities, and other public entities to dedicate land and other resources to grow food for donation
  4. County and Cities to proactively create economic incentives for food recovery and composting
  5. SANDAG or County to develop model zoning language to facilitate composting of all sizes
  6. County, Cities, and the private sector to proactively source imperfect produce
  7. Private sector and local government food service operations to prioritize source reduction and food recovery as it pertains to compliance with AB1826 and SB1383

The Summit also hosts a morning workshop from 8:30am-noon specifically targeted for food-serving entities to provide information, tools, and connections to support their food waste practices. The workshop offers in-depth guidance on food waste prevention, connections to community resources on donation, animal feed and composting, and a facilitated peer-learning session. Tickets can be purchased separately for the food waste workshop only if desired.

The event is sponsored by San Diego Food Bank, County Board of Supervisor Chairman Ron Roberts Community Enhancement Program, CalRecycle, Integrated Waste Management Technical Advisory Committee, County of San Diego Public Works Solid Waste Planning and Recycling, EDCO Disposal, City of Chula Vista Environmental Services Section, City of San Diego Environmental Services Department, and Feeding America San Diego, and UCSD. 

Detailed schedule and tickets are available on the Summit page:


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Media Inquiries:
Elly Brown
(919) 328-0046

Event Inquiries:
Marites Nguyen


About the San Diego Food System Alliance:
The San Diego Food System Alliance is a coalition of organizations and individuals organized to affect positive change in the San Diego County's local food system. Our mission is to develop and maintain an equitable, healthy and sustainable food system for the benefit of all people in San Diego County.