New Law Aims To Redirect School Lunch Waste To Food Banks

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new law aims to cut down on waste from uneaten school lunches. Starting next year, public schools will have the option to donate their leftovers to food banks and charities.

“Here’s a way to get food that was being wasted and thrown away into the hands of nonprofits to be able to feed people,” said state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina).

Right now, state health code prohibits schools from giving away any leftover food. Under Senate Bill 557, written by Hernandez, public schools will have the chance to keep those meals out of the trashcan. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill on Monday.

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“They were throwing away $100,000 worth of food a day,” Hernandez said, referring to Los Angeles Unified School District. “Just multiply that throughout the whole state, that’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Over at Loaves and Fishes, 600 to 800 meals are served every day, and a good portion of the food comes from donations.

“Whatever we can get, whatever help we can get is welcome,” said Noel Kammermann, Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes.

Now food banks and charities in California have one more major resource to turn to: thousands of school districts across the state.

“They were required to throw that food away,” Hernandez said. “There was no connection between giving that food to a food pantry, a homeless center, or a nonprofit. They couldn’t do it because of health codes.”

Sacramento City Unified School District, along with other local districts, says it can’t put a number on how much food each school throws away. But overall districts are ready to see how their donations can help the people in their communities.

“It’s going to be very helpful to have guidelines on how we deal with that process and how we make sure that the meal ends up with somebody who really needs it,” said Alex Barrios, a spokesperson for Sacramento City Unified School District.

The law goes into effect on Jan. 1 2018.

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