Making strides toward food waste reduction: New grant funding and 14 major partnerships

The kitchen team at tri-city medical center (oceanside, ca) gathers for training on food waste tracking in their commercial kitchen

The kitchen team at tri-city medical center (oceanside, ca) gathers for training on food waste tracking in their commercial kitchen

Anyone who has read the statistics on food waste knows the situation is dire, and that correcting the inefficiencies of our system can seem like a staggering task.

However, progress is being made! Recent good news points toward food waste education, prevention and recovery becoming a leading priority for the state and for San Diego area institutions:



1) We are thrilled to announce that SDFSA has been awarded a $220,700 grant to debut the "Save the Food EcoChallenge," a consumer engagement and education program focused on food waste prevention!

This new grant funding from CalRecycle (California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) will allow us to immediately begin planning and rolling out a new food waste prevention program in partnership with several large institutions in San Diego County. The program will combine consumer education using content and resources, a custom web experience hosted on, data-driven tracking and some fun social competition to incentivize individual engagement and action! Stay tuned for the full program rollout.

San Diego Food System Alliance was one of 36 projects statewide that received some level of grant funding from CalRecycle. In total, $11 million was awarded to diverse organizations across California, including city governments, environmental councils, nonprofit organizations, food banks and social enterprises. Impressively, seven of the 36 projects hail from San Diego County, claiming 19% of the awarded grant funds. We are proud of the county for producing so many champions of food waste prevention!

Our fellow San Diego projects that also received grant funding include Feeding San Diego, Galley Solutions, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, The Lost & Found Distillery, ProduceGood, and SOULMUCH!



2) Fourteen major institutions in San Diego County have teamed up with SDFSA to track their food waste through our Smart Kitchens San Diego (SKSD) program!

Fourteen of San Diego’s largest hotels, hospitals and universities have signed on to participate in this long-term food waste tracking program: San Diego Padres at Petco Park, Viejas Casino & Resort, Harrah's Resort Southern California, Hilton Bayfront, Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Park Hyatt Aviara, UC San Diego, UC San Diego Health, Sharp Healthcare, Palomar Health, Tri-City Medical Center and Seacrest Village Retirement Communities.

Smart Kitchens San Diego tackles food waste in large commercial kitchens in two ways:

  • One, by providing sites with subsidized Leanpath food waste tracking technology that enables kitchen staff to easily measure and log wasted edible food in real time, using an in-kitchen smart scale, touch screen interface and Leanpath software. Identifying top waste items and reasons for the waste leads to source reduction—developing strategies and practices to prevent the waste from happening.

  • Two, by connecting each site to a local nonprofit to redirect the surplus food away from landfill and toward donation instead. Food donations are made possible through partnership with the San Diego Food Bank.

In addition to providing overall program management and administration, SDFSA is ensuring the success of this food-waste fighting initiative by providing on-the-ground technical assistance, food waste reduction coaching, best practice sharing, staff training, donation logistics support and more.

Thanks to a previous round of grant funding from CalRecycle, costs of the technology and running the program are subsidized for the fourteen influential institutions involved in this pilot. With positive results from this initial cohort, expansion of the program to other institutions may become a possibility in the future.

Positive results are already being observed: Palomar Health, one of the earliest sites to launch Leanpath technology through the Smart Kitchens San Diego program, has already seen a 34% reduction in food waste in six months. And to date, 44,581 pounds of food has been rescued across all sites, made possible through grant capacity-building, which funded the acquisition of commercial coolers and cargo vans.

When asked about the payoff of the Smart Kitchens San Diego program, a participating Director of Food and Nutrition says, “We were initially reluctant to take on a new program as we are going through significant change in our department and were concerned about the ability of our staff to participate fully. Three months later, we are so pleased that we took the risk.”

“We were fully supported for the setup and training of the program,” she continues. “Smart Kitchens San Diego was right by our side and taking care of business in whatever way we needed. The SKSD team attended staff meetings to reach out to our employees, scheduled regular calls to track progress and helped troubleshoot any issues.”

We are hopeful that the enthusiasm for food waste reduction we’ve seen across these partnerships indicate a growing commitment to food waste prevention at the institutional level!

To find out more about San Diego Food System Alliance’s programs in food waste prevention, you can