I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Here is an Idea That Could Make a Real Difference

A little less than one-third of all prepared food goes to waste in America at the retail and consumer level.  This is a statistic that is widely known and it is hard to believe.  We are a rich nation, yet many do not have enough to eat.   I see people daily on street corners and intersections in Pensacola panhandling because they don’t have money for food.

How can this be?

At home I am relentless about minimizing food waste—after all, I pay for the food and food is expensive.  “Eat all you want, but eat what you take, and do not take more than you can eat” is my philosophy.

When eating out, I am astonished by what I witness in terms of food being wasted.
I observed this same phenomenon when I spent many years in the restaurant business, eventually owning my own restaurant in San Diego.

I see it in our schools, and lately I have heard horror stories about the wasted food in our school district.

 I am leaving the school board in a few months; I am running for a different elected office.  So, even though I want to hear about and discuss community issues (drainage, unsafe intersections, public safety, quality of life initiatives, lighted roadways, etc. etc.) as I’ve been going door to door visiting more than seven thousand homes-- the issue of food waste in schools has once again hit my radar screen from teachers, students, and cafeteria workers of the Escambia County School District. 

As I have been going door to door, many school employees tell me food waste is a huge concern.
One cafeteria worker that lives in Beulah recently told me she was sickened by the waste.  “I see these children daily throwing away unopened, untouched milk, string cheeses, apples and bananas.  Many of them do not have time to eat, and you would not believe how many untouched pop tarts go right into the trash” she stated.

Several teachers I have met told me they simply wish students could save unopened food items and have them for snacks later in the day in the classrooms.  “They won’t let us do that, they won’t let the

 teachers bring these unopened food items back to class for snack time” one exasperated third grade teacher I spoke with said.

So why not save the food that students will otherwise discard?  

Why not let the students make the choice to save unopened but unwanted food to donate to a community food bank—instead of throwing such perfectly good food into the trash can?  Other schools do this, and they make it a teachable moment at the same time.  Students are encouraged to eat all they can/want, discard opened yet unused food, and if they want to, to place unopened, unused food items in separate receptacles—for distribution to local food pantries.  To help others who are less fortunate.

 Food Recovery isbooming on college campuses nationwide---so can our local public schools help?  Can we develop a program at some of our schools (or all of them) to allow students the choice to upcycle unwanted/unopened food products?

Other public schools do this, and the USDA strongly supports such initiatives, as does the EPA.

And Escambia County in general has a strong need for food donations.

I believe we can do something in this arena if we have the will to do it, so I’m bringing this concept to the June School Board workshop to discuss it with my fellow board members.

Maybe this can be a win-win situation where food waste is decreased and we help the homeless among us simultaneously.  This would be an ideal outcome.

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