By Rhea Kuhlman, South Bay Food Pantry Volunteer
Church member Adrienne Kaplan wanted to do something for people who don’t have a lot of the material advantages that she and her husband Matt are fortunate to have, so she volunteered to help out at the Food Pantry. Every Friday morning for the past year, Adrienne has picked up food from a Food for Less market in Chula Vista that would otherwise have been disposed of. It’s food that may be nearing its “Best By” date but is still perfectly good, or food that is judged to be surplus for a variety of other reasons. On a good day, she reports, she gets lots of frozen meat and chicken, foods which are sometimes in short supply and highly sought after by pantry clients. She often retrieves bread or frozen dinners. At the store, she carefully checks the temperature of any meat or dairy products to be sure they’ve been stored safely, and then checks the temps again as she weighs the food she received that day and stores it safely at the Pantry. This record keeping is important to comply with state law. There’s a lot of food available, and some days, she says, food is stacked up to the ceiling in her four-door sedan.
These donations greatly enhance the supply of foods available to food banks and pantries like ours. The Pantry currently sources food from Food for Less, Smart and Final, Barrons, Con Pane, SD Food Bank, Feeding SD, and sometimes even Starbucks! And the good news is that now there are opportunities to harvest even more of this excess food from grocery stores. That’s thanks to California SB 1383, which went into effect in January, 2022. This landmark law requiring edible food recovery was enacted to reduce the amount of food waste going into landfills. Edible food waste accounts for 17 – 18% of California’s landfill disposal. (Andrew Benedik, Cal Matters, 10/27/21). And landfills produce methane, a planet warming gas up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. But while methane is more potent than carbon dioxide, it also clears from the atmosphere more quickly than CO2. That’s why U.S. climate envoy John Kerry tweeted in 2021 that cutting methane is “the single most effective strategy we have to reduce global warming in the near term.”
Globally, landfills and wastewater produce 20% of all methane emissions, according to the U.N. Here in California — where half if what we throw away is food, yard clippings and other organic waste — landfills are the primary source of methane emissions, producing 41% of CA’s methane emissions, more than that emitted from oil and gas. If California eliminated the methane emitted from landfills today, it would have the same climate benefit as taking nearly 4.7 million cars off California’s roads — more than 31% of all passenger vehicles registered in the state.
So it’s clear why the State has enacted this important legislation. But more important for California’s food banks is the fact that it makes more food available to feed the growing number of people facing food insecurity. With gas and food prices rising, all California (and nationwide) food banks have experienced exponential jumps in people seeking help. (Our own Pantry served over 270 families last Saturday). SB1383 has helped to ensure an increased supply of critically needed food.
Each week, the Pantry receives notice of food available for pickup at one or another grocery store around town. Unfortunately, we currently lack the volunteers to respond to these golden opportunities. If you occasionally have a spare morning or afternoon when you could pick up groceries in your part of town and deliver them to the Pantry, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. As Adrienne says, we Pantry volunteers are “a terrific team – cooperative, helpful. I enjoy working with them”, as well as with the community people she interacts with on the job. Have fun and do good at the same time!
The First UU Church of San Diego blog is your resource for upcoming events and past event recaps. Leave us a comment to let us know what you think!