In the United States, almost half of all food is wasted and one in six people are food insecure. At the same time, there are amazing food rescue organizations popping up all over the U.S. to recover extra (would-be wasted) food for those in need. And while most food rescue organizations focus on feeding those in need, Food Shift, out of Oakland, California aims to change the game. With their upcoming Alameda Kitchen project, Food Shift aims to also provide new jobs and job training to an area that badly needs it.
Food Shift recognizes that food rescue, which is mostly supported by volunteers, needs better infrastructure (trucks, cold storage and the like) to be sustainable. The need for better infrastructure is something Food Shift knows from its day to day work recovering 21,000 pounds of surplus food a month in Oakland and Berkeley, California. Something that became even more apparent with its recent completion of the ground-breaking food recovery mapping report for Santa Clara County, California.
Although Santa Clara is located in the very wealthy Silicon Valley, one in four adults and one in three children are food insecure in the county. Needless to say, Food Shift found that the food recovery system in Santa Clara needs a lot of work. And, in addition to infrastructure needs, “food recovery is much more complicated than people think” says Food Shift’s Executive Director Dana Frasz.
This complicated work is compounded by the fact that food rescue, on the whole, is paid little to nothing at all. For some reason most businesses will pay to compost or to dispose of food in landfills but feel like food rescue groups should be paid nothing. Food Shift aims to change that. “If we truly recognize that food recovery is important than we need to recognize the need for a sustainable model for this industry” Frasz says.
And so, Food Shift, with the guiding models of L.A. Kitchen (LAK) and its older sibling D.C. Central Kitchen (DCCK), is working on a small scale version for the San Francisco Bay Area called Alameda Kitchen. With organizational impact and sustainability in mind, Food Shift is working with the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) on an old navy base and is testing rescue of “ugly” produce from Imperfect. In the process, Alameda Kitchen also aims to provide job training and employment to the residents of Alameda Point, a population that has an 85-90 percent unemployment rate.
To raise funds to make the project happen, Food Shift has started an Indiegogo Campaign that will expire in November. In the meantime, Food Shift is testing ways to utilize produce that’s near the end of its useful life. Most food banks and pantries will not take this produce that only has a few days left as it may be too difficult to store and get to their clients right away. Food Shift, like LAK and DCCK, will chop, process, and store (or freeze) the produce so it can last much longer and be eaten, not wasted.
Students from the Stanford University Masters in Business Administration program are chipping in to help Food Shift develop a sustainable business model for the Alameda Kitchen. They are helping find ways to make the food affordable and figure out what to make and who would want to visit the kitchen. Most importantly, the Alameda Kitchen will also provide job training programs and create opportunity to an area that badly needs it because, as Food Shift knows, just feeding people will never be enough.
Find out more about the growing “ugly” produce movement at my social media campaign @UglyFruitAndVeg on Twitter, Instagram, and on Facebook.