New California Law Requires Grocery Stores to Donate the Edible Food Waste

A new law came into effect in California in January this year. It’s aimed to help out the people directly affected by rising food insecurity and lower the emissions of greenhouse gases. 

To this extent, rather than throwing away the expired or unused food, Senate Bill 1383 requires grocery stores and other food suppliers to donate the food waste which is edible either to food banks or rescue organizations.

Signed in 2016 by Governor Jerry Brown, this law tackles the impact of food waste on climate change.

Food Waste Contributes to Climate Change

Organic food waste is one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide and methane. The ReFED notes that around 35 percent of all food ends up in waste.

According to Patty O’Connor, the chief supply chain officer at Feeding San Diego, they’re working to avert this. O’Connor adds that this is a win-win relationship because they don’t want food to go into landfills and no one wants to throw food away. 

The edible and good food can be given to people who may very well be our neighbors. San Diego, by complying with the SB 1383 aims to lower the disposal of toxic organic waste by 75 percent by 2025.

Moreover, to make sure that this food reaches those who need it the most, the food suppliers will have to make a contract with some food rescue organizations such as Feeding San Diego. 

This organization organizes more than 40 million meals on a yearly basis in San Diego. 

Though this law is currently applicable to food suppliers only, they hope to expand it to hotels, schools, and restaurants in 2024.

The First to Demand Food Donations for Human Consumption

Although other states have restrictions on food ending up in landfills, California is the first country to ask for the food to be given to people who need it the most. 

This effort is hand in hand with the federal efforts to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Food Waste Measures: A Major Challenge for Rural Towns & Counties?

Rural towns and counties have submitted more than 500 waivers to stop the implementation of food waste measures claiming they’re too small or lack the composting infrastructure for food that can’t be donated.

Food banks keep going through private donations and some assistance from the government; however, this support dropped during the pandemic with the increase in hunger rates and the cost of food. 

These banks usually buy food in bulk and then deliver it to smaller food pantries from where the hungry eat. The implementation of these new rules has been a challenge in the rural parts of California.

As the North State Food bank prepped for the incoming mandated donations, the high costs of collecting food across 8000 square miles in six counties in northern California became evident.

Tom Dearmore, director of community services at Butte County Community Action Agency emphasizes that he can’t send a truck all over town to pick up leftover sandwiches. He adds that the more they spend on fuel, the less food they’re able to purchase. 

The US gasoline prices and the food inflation reached records after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and further made existing challenges even harder.