As a means to reducing food waste, the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) is launching the Food Recovery Program at SGHS as its piloting site on Jan. 14*.
Students will be encouraged to place uneaten fresh and dried fruits in bins that will be placed near the cafeteria and Grab ‘N’ Go stations. According to Senate Bill 557, food donations from public schools “may include prepackaged, non-potentially hazardous food with the packaging still intact and in good condition.”
“Of course, we would like to have our students eat their fruits and vegetables and the different meal components,” AUSD Food Service Director Judy Huffaker, who is overseeing the program’s coordination, said. “But for those who are not eating them and just discarding them, we would like to see a way to recycle that and offer it to people in need.”
The donations will be collected by volunteers from the Tzu Chi Foundation—which AUSD also partnered with in past food pantries events at Alhambra High School—twice a week and then given to families in need. On campus, the program is also welcomed by the administration, staff, and students.
“When we do this project, we don’t see it [as] just [within the] Food [and Nutrition] Services—it takes many partners,” Huffaker said. “We have a proactive group, which makes a nice collaboration.”
During the program’s development, science teacher David Whitman voiced his concern to the district regarding food waste, when he and his students became aware of the uneaten food in the trash. Currently, Whitman and senior Matthew Perez are working with Huffaker for the program’s kickoff.
“I brought in some trash after lunch, and we dumped it on the table; there [was] so much uneaten food, it would just blow your mind,” Whitman said. “We are going to put [some] signs up where kids get their free breakfast and see if we can use these signs to reduce the amount of food waste.”
Perez and Whitman were both invited to a district meeting back in August to discuss about the program’s startup. Collaborating with Whitman again, Perez is working on a documentary to promote awareness of the growing food waste problem.
“The main point of this documentary is to have children get the food they’ll eat, because they need it, not because they can get it for free,” Perez said.
Environmental Club adviser and history teacher Henry Osborne said that the program can be potentially beneficial to not only the environment but also the economy.
“Not only is throwing away food like throwing away money, either personal or that of taxpayers, there are also big environmental costs associated with the growth, processing, transportation, storage, and disposal of food that eventually goes to waste,” Osborne said.
If this program succeeds at the SGHS site, the district hopes to expand the program to their other school campuses.
*Updated on 1/13/18 to reflect the program’s new launch date