Food Recovery in San Diego

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

San Diego is the seventh largest city in the U.S. It is also part of San Diego County, ranked by Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2012 as the seventh county in the U.S. with the highest number of food insecure individuals in 2010. According to Feeding America, 14.8 percent of the region is in the food insecure individuals category.

As the City of San Diego (City) expands its commercial food scraps composting program from the current 60 participants, this alarming data is always in mind, and used to educate about the importance of source reduction and food reuse before composting. Unfortunately, some participants still fear the food reuse option. Although some do reuse their edible food excess, in a recent analysis of our program we calculated that if at least 15 percent of current participants’ food waste was edible and diverted for reuse instead of composting, approximately 666 tons/year of food would be available for food insecure residents and/or other reuse options such as animal feed.

Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate of 1.2 lbs of food/meal, that excess 666 tons of edible food could be turned into 1,109,464 meals/year. In other words, by donating just 15 percent of edible food scraps, we could feed 2.5 meals/individual/day to the 448,000 food insecure individuals estimated by the County of San Diego for 2010. There also are tax deduction and tipping fee avoidance benefits. The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section, “Allowable Deductions for Charitable Donations to Ordinary Income Property,” permits significant tax benefits for organizations donating food to charitable organizations. And if all program participants had donated 15 percent of their edible food they would have avoided $14,652/ year on tipping fees at the Miramar Greenery where collected food scraps are composted. Furthermore, Feeding America’s Map the Gap 2012 estimates that the cost of a meal in the County of San Diego is $2.68. The savings generated by those 1,109,464 meals/year are equivalent to $2,973,363/year. What an incredible social, and environmental, opportunity!

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