In Fight Against Food Poverty, L.A. Kitchen Embraces Imperfect Fruit and Intergenerational WorkforceFebruary 13, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
Fighting hunger is more than just about food for Robert Egger, founder and CEO of L.A. Kitchen, a non-profit in Los Angeles that engages, empowers, and nourishes the local community “by reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, training men and women who are unemployed for jobs, and providing healthy meals to fellow citizens,” according to the organizations mission statement.
“Fighting hunger is a political act, a social act, an economic act,” says Egger. “I want to be a source and develop a model that shows how you can feed more people a better meal with less money.”
L.A. Kitchen is modeled after Egger’s first enterprise, D.C. Central Kitchen in Washington D.C. A chance experience of accompanying friends to feed the homeless there highlighted some inadequacies Egger couldn’t ignore, such as purchasing the food when so many people in the food industry he knew lamented over wasting food at the end of the night.
To provide an up close and personal look at a series of innovative community development ventures that have emerged to increase food security, reduce food waste, create jobs, enhance food access, and improve health and nutrition in communities, Seedstock has put together the ‘Future of Food – Community Development Field Trip’.
Slated for Friday, March 17, 2017, the second ‘Future of Food’ field trip will look at the impact of community food systems ventures in Southern California, and include lectures from experts in the fields of community garden and urban farming program development, food access, and food justice.
The tour is the second in a series of Seedstock ‘Future of Food’ field trips that was recently launched to facilitate the exploration of food system innovations that are generating economic and community capital.
When Santa Ana, California pediatrician and Orange County Public Health Officer Eric Handler ran into Mark Lowry of the Orange County Food Bank some years ago, he had two questions for him:
- Do you have enough food in your food bank?
- If we captured all food waste, could we end hunger in Orange County?
Lowry’s answer to the first question was no, and his answer to the second question was yes. This interaction led to the formation of the Waste Not OC Coalition in 2012.
With an overarching goal to eradicate hunger in Orange County, the Waste Not OC Coalition recovers food by connecting restaurants and grocery stores with food recovery agencies. It distributes that food by connecting people in need with food pantries. It also educates donors, recipients and the general public about the importance of food donation and how to safely handle donated food.
The United States is a wealthy country. It is home to some of the richest families in the world and is a major food exporter to countries with fewer resources. Yet, according to feedingamerica.org, 13 percent of US households were food-insecure last year, while at the same time, 40 percent of the food produced in this country never finds its way to families’ tables and approximately 6 billion pounds of fresh produce is left to rot in farmers’ fields each year.
An incredible amount of food is wasted. How did this happen? Some point to strong consumer preference for pristine fruits and vegetables. As a result, misshapen or slightly imperfect produce sits unpicked in fields and orchards, or is tossed into landfills, where it emits methane into the atmosphere. Much of this abandoned food is perfectly edible and could go a long way toward alleviating hunger in many communities.
One organization in northern Vermont is determined to put this once-wasted food to use by distributing it to those who need it the most. Salvation Farms was established in 2004
For LA Compost, responsible food use and consumption doesn’t end with farm-to-table practices. The Los Angeles-based non-profit organization supports maintaining the total loop within the story of food, which largely includes compost.
“Healthy soil translates into healthy food, and healthy food leads to healthy people. Composting is just as valuable as any of the other processes,” says Michael Martinez, the Executive Director of LA Compost.
In early 2013, Martinez and other founding members started LA Compost as a food waste diversion service, transporting organic waste from four different cities to composting centers by bike.