Jun 21, 2022
California Senate Bill 1383 requires that, by 2025, California reduce its organic waste by 75 percent and recover at least 20 percent of edible food that would otherwise have been discarded. Experts in food recovery discuss findings from a RAND study into Los Angeles County's preparedness for the law.
Good morning, everybody in L.A. County and in California. I know some of you are joining us from further afield. Welcome to you, too. This webinar is focused on the findings from RAND's Los Angeles Food Recovery Study. I'm Alina Polimaru, the principal investigator of the study, and I will be your host. This study examined Los Angeles County's preparedness for the new edible food recovery mandate, or SB 1383. Our webinar will last an hour and will comprise of a brief presentation of the study's findings, followed by a discussion with experts who will be reflecting on the results and what they mean for the mandate's implementation. Then, in the last 15 minutes or so, we will open it up to questions from the audience. Please click the Q&A icon below and type in your questions at any time. We will try to get through as many as we can at the end. It's a big topic, so let's get started.
This study was motivated by two separate problems. On the one hand, we have viable food rotting on landfills, contributing to methane emissions. At the same time, 60% of L.A. County renters are food insecure. This suggests the notion that there might be one potential solution: edible food recovery and redistribution to those among us who go hungry. Beginning with January 2022, this process is mandated across California under Senate Bill 1383, or the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants law.
So, what does SB 1383 aim to do? By 2025, California must reduce its organic waste by 75% compared to 2014 baseline measures. The state must also recover at least 20% of edible food that would have otherwise been disposed of. These goals are statewide, but the law is implemented at jurisdiction level, such as cities or counties. Jurisdictions are ultimately responsible for implementing edible food recovery programs and for ensuring compliance with SB 1383. They can also charge and collect fees to recover the costs of their programs.
Ultimately, all Californians are involved, because the mandate covers food waste at both household and food outlet levels. But in this study, we focused only on the logistics of recovering excess edible food from outlets in what is known as Tier 1. These are major supermarkets and wholesalers that must comply with the law beginning with January 1st, 2022. For example, supermarkets with gross annual revenues of at least $2 million and grocery stores with a total facility size of at least 10,000 square feet. Food outlets in Tier 2 must comply by January 1st, 2024. And they include hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and schools with various size minimums by seats, beds, and square footage.
Let's quickly remind ourselves of the process of food recovery. It starts with food donation; followed by collection and drop off; sorting, storing, and food preparation; and delivery to or collection by recipients.
California is the first state in the nation to mandate food recovery on such a scale. So, as you can imagine, there are many unknowns about how food recovery happens on the ground within the rules set by the law. So, for this formative study, we prioritize the fundamentals with respect to Los Angeles County only. We wanted to know: Who is doing food recovery? How do they do it? Who are they serving? And what challenges do they face? Ultimately, we wanted to determine any provision gaps and how they may undermine the bill's implementation and also to identify the support and resources necessary to meet recovery goals. So, we reviewed the literature and SB 1383 government documents and conducted confidential interviews with 38 stakeholders from Tier 1. We spoke with food recovery organizations and advocates; county, city and state agencies; human services agencies; edible food generators; and waste haulers. On our website, rand.org/foodrecovery, we have a technical appendix that describes in greater detail these methods.
Let's look at our results. Our analysis that— suggests that although the goal of the law has been generally accepted and is seen as an opportunity to innovate, its implementation is complex. Many stakeholders felt unprepared for this. Data collected through this study indicate that the new law is likely to first, increase the amount of donated food for recovery and distribution. Second, formalize food recovery through contracts and written agreements between the various stakeholders. And third, expand data gathering and reporting for everyone involved. But, as we will see shortly, without more capacity, targets may be missed.
How these three changes materialize in practice will likely differ with each jurisdiction's food recovery program. And, of course, jurisdictions vary dramatically. If we look at L.A. County, which was the focus of our study, L.A. County is huge. It has more than 4,000 square miles of dense urban areas and rural communities, with over 600 miles of major through roads such as freeways and expressways. SB 1383 will be implemented in 88 cities plus the county. There are in the order of 14,000 food stores and 90,000 restaurants. Of course, many of these are small businesses, and not all of them will have to comply. These outlets are feeding 10 million people, notwithstanding the many tourists to our beautiful county. But sadly, 14% of Angelinos live below federal poverty level. L.A. County already has over 800 food recovery organizations that are seeking to help some 66,000 people who are experiencing homelessness and over 250,000 food insecure homes with many more unaccounted for.
So, who's involved right now in SB 1383 Tier 1? We have edible food generators known as EFGs, such as large supermarkets and wholesalers. Food recovery services, or FRSs; these are specialists in food transportation. Food recovery organizations—FROs—such as soup kitchens and food banks. And human services agencies—HSAs—such as emergency shelters and social services. Also, finally, government agencies and jurisdictions: the people who will implement the law and monitor compliance.
These stakeholders generally work together in sequence, but sometimes their roles overlap. Those that donate sometimes offer drop off. FRSs collect and transport the food to FROs, which then sort, store, and some even prepare cooked food. But FROs also collect food from EFGs. Recipients, such as the service agencies and individuals, may have food delivered or they can pick it up themselves. Although this process can look fairly straightforward in principle, variations in donated food and safe handling considerations can add complexity to the process. Fresh food is time sensitive. Chilled food is temperature and time critical. Frozen food is temperature critical. And cooked meals are temperature and time critical.
In the interviews that we conducted, participants described some challenges that predate SB 1383, while others related to the mandate. Let's start with the former.
Lack of facilities such as refrigerated trucks and storage were some of the most common physical infrastructure challenges. Refrigerated transportation is vital to maintain the safe cold chain for some food items, while space shortages posed different challenges for each stakeholder. EFGs need space to store food for donation until it's collected, while FROs need space to sort large deliveries. It's important to note that not all entities are affected in the same way by these issues. There is remarkable variation in resources and flexibility across all stakeholders.
Another issue that predates the mandate refers to insufficient staffing, both paid and volunteer. Workforce turnover and truck driver shortages affected EFGs, FRSs, and FROs. But the nonprofits also discussed their dependance on volunteers to achieve their goals, which has been especially challenging during the pandemic. Even jurisdiction agencies struggle with staffing shortages, which was problematic given the growing list of responsibilities under the mandate.
Next, interviewees spoke about fragmented funding with unhelpful restrictions. It's known that food recovery nonprofits are funded primarily through a patchwork of public grants and philanthropy. With a few exceptions, most grants fund equipment but not labor and come with reporting requirements and short-term coverage. Overall, the landscape creates a funding paradox. Organizations need more resources, like staffing, to be able to compete for, acquire, and manage additional funding. Our interview data suggested that jurisdictions are still exploring optimal ways to fund the nonprofits in this space.
Now, let's look at the SB 1383–specific challenges. Jurisdictional variations leading to inefficiency: As we have stated earlier, in L.A. County, 89 jurisdictions will develop 89 food recovery programs, each based on their own capacity for recovery and enforcement. Variation in program design is problematic, because many stakeholders operate across jurisdictions and in some cases across multiple counties. For EFGs, for instance, this could frustrate a chain-level standardized approach to food recovery protocols and staff training.
Another important finding relates to perceived shortcomings in awareness and training. SB 1383 was signed into law in 2016, the rules were finalized in November 2020, and the law came into effect in January 1st, 2022. Representatives from state and local agencies mentioned years of outreach efforts to various stakeholders to get buy-in and clarify roles and responsibilities, which were met with varying levels of receptiveness and understanding. So, despite this extended period of preparation, in early 2022, many were still learning about how to comply with the edible food recovery part of the mandate, such as how to draft written agreements and how to report the data. These deficiencies were attributed to a lack of coordination in messaging across state and local, public and private entities.
On a separate but related point, interviewees spoke about the confusing range of apps that match food with recipients. Some found these to be helpful, but others struggled to make sense of the diversity in pricing and licensing, the type of data collected, and other functions. So, there was an educational gap here, too.
Differences in motivation are also important to note. FROs and FRSs are volunteer-based, committed to social and food justice. They aim to distribute healthy and nutritious food as a way to address health disparities and preserve client dignity. So, they may be selective in what donations they accept. On the other hand, most EFGs are for-profit, so efficiency and profitability are important. In fact, they may prefer waste prevention—also known as source reduction—rather than food donation, because it could help reduce the costs of acquiring, handling, and disposing of excess food. Moreover, EFGs are reputation- and brand-conscious, so quality and safety concerns for the branded products that leave their premises may limit the number of FROs to which they donate.
Although stakeholders described collective efforts to share information and resources, we also heard about key systemic disincentives to collaborate in food recovery. For example, many nonprofits compete for the same grants, and this may limit information and resource sharing. Interviewees also mentioned restrictive agreements that create avoidable waste. These agreements between EFGs and FROs that work with larger national organizations were perceived to constrain the number of FROs with which EFGs choose to or can work.
Finally, interviewees spoke about service gaps in recovery and recycling. For instance, some regions may have higher numbers of low-income individuals but fewer FROs to recover and distribute food. Finally, participants spoke about the inadequate recycling infrastructure for organic waste. Although this was seen as a secondary issue for their operations, some were concerned about the costs and limited opportunities for composting in L.A. County. Ongoing market development efforts at state level were acknowledged, but there was also recognition that these efforts will take time.
This study captured perspectives from the early stages of SB 1383 in L.A. County. In some ways, L.A. County is a good test case, because it is a populous county with urban and rural features and numerous jurisdictions. But it is also different from other counties. Nevertheless, although focused on L.A. County, some suggestions may apply statewide.
First, tailor funding to the needs of food recovery, such as joint funding of capital assets and human resources. Second, encourage and improve coordination across jurisdictions. For example, consortia of local government agencies, health and social service systems, FROs, EFGs, that encourage consensus building around food recovery best practice. Three, expand education, training, and public awareness. Many educational assets are already developed and are available, but our findings seem to suggest that they may need more promotion and awareness. Four, support innovation and spotlight best practice. So, identify and reward jurisdictions and organizations that are innovative, have effective education programs, contribute to broader statewide goals, and deliver exemplary SB 1383 compliance.
Finally, the complexity and fragmentation of the food recovery landscape indicate the need to undertake further research into funding reform—so, how to best fund food recovery; systemic logistics to understand how to streamline service provision and more effectively use existing resources; and preparedness for Tier 2. Hospitals, hotels, major event venues may differ in important ways from Tier 1 generators, so it's important to understand their context, motivations, and processes.
So, that brings me to the end of the formal part of the presentation. Before we get on to the panel discussion, I want to invite you to check out our website to read our formal report. I also want to thank my fellow authors: Joslyn Fleming, who brought her military logistics expertise to our analysis. Jay Balagna, assistant policy researcher with a background in community resilience. Marcy Agmon, our operations expert who identified the potential problems and brought the topic of this study to RAND. Dr. Marc Robbins, one of RAND's top experts in logistics and organizational management. And Dr. Sarah Hunter, a senior behavioral scientist with experience in interventions to help improve services for vulnerable populations. I also want to thank Ninna Gudgell, Anita Szafran, and Kurt Klein for their pivotal support. And I want to acknowledge RAND for funding this work.
On our website, you will also see a short film that we have produced to introduce the problem, the study, and the findings. You may find that this short video provides a great overview and introduction, and I encourage you to share these assets widely. And before we go on to the expert panel discussion, just to give you a little taste, here's the first 45 seconds of the film by way of a teaser.
Welcome back, everyone. I hope you enjoyed that teaser. I would like to thank Glory Film Co Philanthropy for donating the film, the presentation, and for its innovative approach to knowledge transfer.
We're now ready to begin our panel discussion, and our first panelist is Danielle Osborne. Danielle is an environmental scientist at CalRecycle, which is the state agency overseeing the implementation of SB 1383. She works in the agency's Statewide Technical and Analytical Resources branch, where she serves as CalRecycle's technical advisor for the edible food recovery requirements of SB 1383.
Thank you for joining us today, Danielle. One of our findings relates to shortcomings in public awareness, but also in the understanding of the more technical aspects of the mandate among stakeholders. How do you plan to address this going forward?
Over the past five years, CalRecycle has worked closely with many edible food recovery stakeholders to help inform the development and implementation of our SB 1383 regulations. We continue to regularly meet with and provide information to food recovery organizations and services, local governments, and food businesses that are all subject to these regulations. We've also been a part of ongoing outreach efforts by participating in webinars, setting up meetings when we receive inquiries from stakeholders, and updating resources on our web pages as well as those web pages themselves. And we do plan to stay involved in these various ways.
But we also agree that ongoing education of edible food recovery is needed with increased collaboration between those stakeholders that I mentioned. There has to be a continual effort, because stakeholder contacts can change regularly—as you mentioned in your presentation—and just with the fact that this is such a new law. We also should note that we don't necessarily have all the answers, especially when it comes to jurisdiction-specific infrastructure and program development. However, we are eager to continue to learn more over time from these stakeholders about how their efforts are going and how we can continue to help collaborate to solve problems that might arise.
Right. Thank you for clarifying that. And Danielle, at this point in time, I expect that you will have heard more feedback from jurisdictions. What do you see as the biggest challenges to meeting the mandate's goals, and how do you plan to address them?
So, food recovery requires local solutions, and 1383 requires that edible food recovery programs are implemented by their local jurisdictions. So, varying solutions might be necessary, but it can be confusing to stakeholders that are involved in food recovery across multiple jurisdictions, and it can also limit the amount of statewide guidance that we can provide, since there might not necessarily be a one-size-fits-all solution depending on the issue. So, as I mentioned, we want to continue to stay connected with how local or regional programs evolve and to share best practices that can help inform and contribute to the success of other programs. We also do work closely with our CalRecycle local assistance teams to include them in conversations about jurisdictions that they work with.
Another topic that's mentioned as a challenge is the funding aspect for implementing these food recovery programs. Jurisdictions are responsible for funding their programs, and they're authorized to do so through the use of fee structures, for example. I also want to mention that CalRecycle has provided some grant funding from various grant cycles—excuse me—that have gone towards edible food recovery. We've recently offered a 1383 Local Assistance Grant, which provided $55 million to approximately 400 projects across the state to assist with 1383 implementation. Note that this is overall implementation, not just edible food recovery, but those were included in that as well. And then we also have our Edible Food Recovery Grant program, which includes funding for food waste prevention as well. And through this grant program, we've provided approximately $29 million in funding to over 100 projects since the grant cycle— since the first grant cycle in 2016. Our most recent cycle awarded $5 million to 21 projects across the state, including some new eligibility criteria that prioritize projects that benefit tribal communities and counties that had not previously received food recovery funding. So, we recognize that programs require sustainable, ongoing funding. But we did want to mention that there are these funding options out there as well.
Another overall challenge is just that this is a new law, so there is a learning curve, and it can take some time for it to run smoothly. Food recovery as a practice is definitely not new to California or the stakeholders involved, but the scope and scale of those participating in it are now expected to grow. And ultimately, the success of this bill and edible food recovery programs will rely on effective collaboration between food businesses, food recovery orgs and services, and local governments.
Yes. Thank you for that. Yeah, and the complexity of the law is something that came through in our findings as well. And I certainly recognize the difficulty of managing that across California, which is such a diverse state. Thank you. Thank you, Danielle.
Our next guest is Mike Learakos. He is executive director at Abound Food Care. Abound Food Care is a public-private partnership working to develop food insecurity and food waste reduction solutions. Mike has a diverse career across the food industry—spanning more than 30 years—and he also has a long history of community involvement. Thank you for joining us today, Mike.
Mike, you are now a consultant in food recovery, and you have an overview of how the mandate's implementation has been going across the state. How do the challenges and opportunities that we identified in our report within L.A. County compare with what you have seen elsewhere?
Yeah, I think they're pretty consistent. I think your report was spot-on in identifying those challenges and some of those innovations that can come from that. Most specifically, this heavy reliance on a nonprofit network that tends to be disconnected, and again, is overly reliant on— itself on volunteers. And what that leads to from a food industry perspective is concern over food safety and ultimately the brand protection that comes with food safety or lack of. But it does create all these innovation opportunities as well. It creates the opportunity to come up with solutions for cold storage, technology that not just recovers food, but really strengthens the food system by identifying all these gaps and then also being able to provide, you know, opportunity within the local neighborhood to provide food repurposing, et cetera, that really kind of connects, you know, the whole landscape.
Mm-hmm. Yes, absolutely. And one of our recommendation is for further research, especially with regards to Tier 2 generators such as the restaurants. What are some of the biggest issues that you think should be examined ahead of 2024?
Tier 2's going to be another animal. It's really an 80/20 principle to this. I think 80% of the time, effort, expense is going to be spent on recovering 20% of the food. We're also going to learn a lot coming out of COVID and how the landscape has changed. So, for example, a lot of the nonprofit organizations are no longer doing feeding. They're doing pantry style. So, when it comes to Tier 2 recovery, that type of operation is best suited going from donor to recipient, where that food is then distributed. If we have a reduction in the number of agencies, then we're going to have to rethink how we get that food from donor to recipient and ultimately to the end user, or the consumer. So, it's going to be a challenge to look at. And then finally, it's going to be important to identify how much of this food is actually usable. How much of this food is going to nonprofit agencies? In other words, how much of it is the activity of recovering food versus the impact that this food can have as a protein or a nutrition source?
Yes, and that's actually a good segue into my next question, because in our report, we found that some of the EFGs may prefer to focus on source reduction, which may reduce the excess edible food available for recovery. So, tell us a bit more about how this may relate to how we measure impact of SB 1383.
Yeah, that's kind of the win-win that comes with edible food recovery. On the private side of it—on the EFG side of it—the ability to identify—through food donation—operational shortcomings, whether it's production or procurement. Immediately, those adjustments are made. And that leads that source reduction. And that typically has a bottom-line benefit to the company—to the private company—and that's a huge advantage. And then as we look at what is the impact of this, we're also finding different methods of handling excess edible food. So, for example, for many years in the food industry, product was not used to serve or to feed to employees. Now, you're seeing companies look at providing that food service to their employees, which no longer counts as excess edible food. So we're seeing, you know, how this is going to evolve and how that shift will take place. But it's going to take a lot more analysis of how we handle Tier 1 to understand the best way to handle Tier 2.
All right. Thank you for that.
Next, we have Nancy Beyda, executive director of FoodCycle LA, a Hollywood-based nonprofit that picks up excess food from businesses throughout Los Angeles and then brings it to organizations serving those in need. Under Nancy's leadership, FoodCycle has grown to serve over 3 million meals in 2021.
Thank you for being here, Nancy. Your organization provides food recovery services. What do you think are the biggest implications of this mandate for organizations such as yours?
Thank you for including me, Alina. So, it was anticipated that SB 1383 would result in a large increase in donations. And at our organization, we found that to be the case. Over the last six months, we've seen a large uptick in grocery stores reaching out to us. Actually, it began in advance of 2022. So, that's encouraging, because it shows that these laws can make a difference and motivate donors to participate. There was one grocery store—just to share a personal story—that I've been picking up from as a volunteer for 20 years and had been reaching out to corporate almost during that whole time and never been able to get any traction with them, or get more, you know, the next-level donation program. And I saw that the level of waste at that one store was so huge that it actually motivated me to start this nonprofit. I did lots of dumpster diving at that store. I mean, it was just overflowing with, you know, really high-end food. And then at the end of 2021, the corporate finally reached out to us to get a program. And we saw that across the board with many, many others. So, we know that these kind of laws can be a big motivation for donors. And that, in turn, leads to other challenges.
Yes, and that's great to hear that positive development. But as you mentioned, there are still challenges. So, speaking of challenges, what are the biggest challenges to scaling up organizations such as yours to handle this additional food while also balancing the need to offer nutritious food?
Right. So, the scaling up— the fact that organizations had to scale up in response to this influx in donations without the financial support in place to increase our infrastructure to have additional transportation and staffing meant that we were really, you know, with our existing staffing—and this is across the board for all of the nonprofits and other organizations doing food recovery—we had to figure out a way to get a lot more food picked up with no additional resources devoted. So, that took a lot of, you know, sort of improvising ways to meet the increased challenges.
Another point that you spoke to: As far as this donated food, because excess food by its nature, you know, perishable— this perishable food is not all healthy food. So, included in these donations are a lot of baked goods. And some organizations we found would want one certain type of food and not another type of food. So, just adding to the complexity of food recovery is that this food needs to be matched to go to a place where it's actually going to be used, to be consumed and not thrown away, that it's food that they recognize, that's part of their diet. But, as I mentioned, it also means that some of the influx of food is not going to be— it's not going to be kale. It's not going to be organic vegetables.
Another personal experience that I had kind of changed my perspective on this, too. So, a couple of years ago, I dropped off a big load of food from a grocery store at a housing complex with low-income housing. And I noticed when I was dropping off—it actually stuck in my mind—it's like, there's a lot of baked goods here. Like, we are dropping off all these pies and cakes because, you know, we can't— we were trying to save them from being thrown away. And after I dropped that day, this family came up to me and said, you know, "it was our daughter's third birthday today, and we didn't have anything to celebrate. We didn't have any money to do anything. And you dropped off these cherry pies, so we had a party with these pies." And it kind of shifted my perspective. You know, I would have been happy if I had a truckload of kale to drop up there, but I didn't. I had more than I thought, you know, cherry pies that they needed. But that kind of goes with the territory of how do we, you know, include all of this food and distribute it in a way that it gets used?
Thank you. And I really appreciate that heartwarming example. It's great to understand how these kinds of processes can make a difference.
Another finding in our study was that nonprofits rely significantly on volunteers to achieve their objectives. How do you think that the more formal arrangements under SB 1383 may impact on this staffing model among the nonprofits?
Yeah. So, there are inherent challenges in using a large volunteer base, since volunteers can be less reliable. They cannot always have the type of transportation that's needed to pick up larger donations. It's not always a good match; every volunteer isn't a good match for every donation. So, there has to be some real careful consideration of logistics as you look at volunteers. And, most importantly, we found that volunteers— relying on volunteers has the inherent sort of challenge of those people, if they don't show up, it has a huge impact on donor participation. It only takes one or two days where nobody shows up to pick up the donations that people set aside, and that donor gets very, very disillusioned. So having— you know, having paid staffing or having some type of infrastructure that supports the volunteer program— I think volunteers, actually, the benefit of volunteers is that they help spread the word. We've always made it a priority to include and use apps that allow us to include volunteers, because it's very empowering to do something that actually directly impacts climate change. And so, that's a wonderful, wonderful gift of using volunteers. But you also have to create some sort of support system. And in the case of— just an example of what's being done here, we're just currently partnering with the Department of Sanitation here in Los Angeles. They've created a transportation project to allow our organization to provide transportation for organizations that can't— you know, their volunteers aren't sufficient to do the recovery that they've engaged in right now. So, those kinds of collaborative projects with shared resources are one way to address the issue— inherent challenges of volunteers.
Yes. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. You have to balance the tradeoffs. Thank you for that, Nancy.
We'll shift gears now and get the perspective of food recovery organization. And with us, we have Laura Hernandez, who is operations and financial manager at New Challenge Ministries fresh rescue food bank in South L.A. Thank you for joining us, Laura.
Laura, your organization's primary objective is to help people for whom a nutritious meal is far from guaranteed. How do you think SB 1383 might help organizations such as yours, which rely on donated food?
Well, I think that SB 1383 is very important to encourage, in this phase of it anyway, with the stores and things like that, to donate food to food banks and food pantries like ourselves. Any type of encouragement for the stores to donate is wonderful and can be appreciated.
I think the challenge with 1383 has been the ebb and flow of donations—unpredictable ebb and flow of donations—has been a little challenging to deal with. At times there isn't much. At times there is a great deal—an overabundance, as they say. But all in all, I think that 1383 can be a blessing to so many. And the demand for nutritious food has gone up—quite frankly, doubled—in 2020 to over even COVID times. And people are feeling a high level of anxiety. I think that the stores sometimes have a challenge having the staff—we were talking about volunteers, but at the store level, having the staff—to sort the food, get the food ready for organizations such as ours to come pick up the food. But I think that all in all, this looks a great opportunity to not let food go to waste.
Great. Thank you. And then in our report, we describe that the volume and type of food that organizations such as yours receive can vary dramatically. And you've just hinted at that as well. So what are the biggest practical challenges that you are likely to face following the implementation of the law, given these variations?
Well, I think one of the biggest challenges for us, we're a private food bank, and transportation to pick up large donations is really, really challenging for us. We don't have the funding to get a large truck, so we have a van. And that can be challenging to pick up large donations. In some cases, we rely on our partners like FoodCycle LA to help us pick up some of the larger donations. But I think that it's— the challenges can be overcome. And we just need to work together as a team to make sure that we are using the food. And I think food waste is such a crime since there are so many people in need.
Yes, indeed. And tell us a little bit about your efforts to provide healthy food with dignity. I know this is a concern for many nonprofits serving vulnerable populations.
Yes, I think that coming to a food bank or a food pantry can be very humbling for some. So, coming from over 30 years in customer service, it is a priority here to wow our customers, to make them feel welcome, to thank them for coming, to make sure that each— once we get the food back from all our pick ups during the day, we sort the food and we create care boxes for our customers. That is, a variety of nutritious food, vegetables, things of that nature. And so, if there are dietary restrictions for some people that come, we do our very best to accommodate those dietary restrictions in the food that we give them, because once again, we don't want to see food go to waste. So, I think it's very helpful to greet people and to provide that wow factor so they feel comfortable coming back. And we have no zip code restrictions or frequency restrictions, so people can come five days a week for the food. And we encourage them to do that, because our food is primarily fresh and perishable.
Great. Thank you, Laura. I appreciate it.
Our last guest brings the jurisdiction perspective. Jennifer King is a program manager with L.A. County's Department of Public Works. And recently, she has been overseeing the SB 1383 edible food recovery capacity assessment and planning for L.A. County. She's also been providing SB 1383 educational outreach to large edible food generators and local food recovery agencies.
Jennifer, welcome. One of our findings is that having so many individual jurisdictions doing their own thing may not necessarily benefit the wider implementation effort. How do you overcome some of these issues related to fragmentation?
So, even after reviewing Senate Bill 1383 many times since the first draft came out 'til the final version, we still find things that we need to reach out for clarifications. For example, are $0.99 store and Dollar Tree stores considered to be grocery store in Tier 1 edible food generators? And the answer is no, because their primary sale is not food. Or, are private schools considered to be a local education entity in Tier 2 edible food generators? And the answer is also no, as private schools are considered to be businesses in this case. So, my point is, if the county and cities need to—we still need to consult with experts to get clarifications—it's understandable that the public can be so confused with what the law requires them to do.
Starting from why organic waste is bad for the environment, since we have been doing this so many years, and what is methane, and why it's harmful. Methane is not as well known as CO2, right? So, that's something that they need to learn. And what we can do, and how to do it, and how I can comply with the regulations. All these questions that we have heard since Senate Bill 1383 becomes effective in January this year. So, I think it's very important that we, as the local jurisdictions, counting cities, we are consistent with the information and resources that we provide during educational outreach. And that's why we talk about collaborations between jurisdictions as, as simple as sharing the existing outreach materials and creating templates that can be widely used by all jurisdictions. And furthermore, we may also talk about countywide outreach campaign through social media, radio, TV that can spread the words widely and faster in a consistent way.
Thank you. And then, knowing how individual cities are very proud of their independence, can you give some examples of how they might usefully work together to a more successful food recovery program beyond just the educational component that you've just described?
So, I'm very proud of any cities who have been independent, proactive, and innovative in many ways. Sometimes it feels like a competition— a competition among jurisdictions. And competitions are good, and it can lead to higher quality of services and more innovations. Even in the food recovery world, competition can be a good motivation to recover more food and help more people in need. And we often reference from what have already been done out there when trying to develop something new. So when we came up with our food recovery programs— county food recovery programs, we also referenced a lot of programs that's already been out there.
Senate Bill 1383 requires each county and city to provide educational outreach to the edible food generators within its jurisdiction. Monitor and ensure that our edible food generators have an agreement with one or more food recovery organizations to donate their surplus edible food. We are also required to obtain food recovery reports from the food recovery organizations located in our own jurisdiction on how much edible food that they recover from the businesses. So, the direction in Senate Bill 1383 is pretty straightforward for each county and city to work with our own edible food generators and our own food recovery organizations. That's in our jurisdiction.
But in the reality, food recovery has no boundary. Businesses in City A may be connected to a food pantry in City B. Or, if the food is being picked up by a food recovery service like Nancy's, our— one of our panelists, who mainly just transporting food to different food banks and food pantries, that— because they need to ensure that the food banks and food pantry, they have the capacities to accept those donated food. So, the food that they recover from business can be sent to any food recovery agency in any cities or even outside of L.A. County. So when we talk about food recovery capacity in L.A. County, it's very difficult to only work within one jurisdiction, only work in my own jurisdiction. For L.A. County, we have 88 cities plus county unincorporated communities. And there are about 25 smaller cities. They do not have sufficient food recovery capacity at all. And whether it's because they have no food recovery organizations in their jurisdiction, or there may be very few small ones, that they do not have enough capacity to accept all of the food within their own jurisdiction.
So, let me give you an example. The city of Malibu has been working very hard with their edible food generators to recover and donate their surplus food, but they don't have any food recovery organizations in Malibu can take all that recovery of food. So they will have to rely on the food recovery organizations and services that's outside their jurisdiction to take those food and distribute to the communities outside Malibu. But, on the other side, of course, City of Los Angeles will have more than sufficient food recovery capacity. So, for the 1,100 known food recovery organizations throughout L.A. County, about 600 of them are actually in City of L.A. So they have, like, large capacity within City of L.A.'s jurisdiction. So, and many of them constantly asking for more food. They need more food to distribute to their communities.
So, when jurisdictions work on implementation plan to expand food recovery capacity, it doesn't make sense for each city to come up with its own plan. If City of Malibu come up with an implementation plan to start a food recovery program to take the donated food themselves, but are there that many recipients in Malibu that city can distribute the recovered food to? The example between City of Malibu and City of Los Angeles is what we call inequitable capacity throughout the county, and that makes it more important for jurisdiction to collaborate and to share information and resources among each other.
While county public works— we have been working on the Edible Food Capacity Assessment through County's Food Donation and Recovery Outreach Program. We also call it Food DROP. We not only work on sharing information and resources with other jurisdiction and facilitate connecting EFGs—the edible food generators—with food recovery organizations for food donation. But we also started to develop a countywide food recovery database to help information sharing and provide a platform for food recoveries to— food recovery organizations to network. And after that, I think there will also be opportunities for jurisdiction to come up with plans of incentives and food recovery grant fundings. So we have a long way to go, and it's hard to do it on our own.
Thank you. No, indeed. And I appreciate that really comprehensive answer. And that was touching on what some of the jurisdictions can do, but also what some of the other stakeholders, like food recovery organizations, can do to overcome some of these issues with fragmentation. Wonderful.
Well, let's make sure that we also get some time to cover questions from the audience. And let's see, Jay, I think we're now ready to share the first question.
First question is from the audience. And it's: How can organizations like food pantries—that often have goals to distribute nutritious, quality, culturally-appropriate food to their clients—navigate this system to get the foods that they actually want to distribute?
And I think this question is for Nancy and Laura.
Well, I'll be happy to start, and Nancy can chime in, if you don't mind. I think that we pride ourselves, with the help of FoodCycle LA, in obtaining very nutritious food from the retail stores that we pick up from. And like I say, it can be challenging, as Nancy and her beautiful story about the baked goods and things of that nature. Although we don't necessarily think of those as nutritious food, people need bread for their sandwiches and maybe some sweets for special occasions. What we try to do is just even it out as best as possible and make sure that every customer that comes gets a little bit, shall we say, of everything that we have so that we can provide nutritious and an assortment of food to every customer.
And I think one of the ways that we help ensure this happens more equitably is to share and collaborate in terms of collection and redistribution so that the food that we get is spread among a network of different agencies. We found during the pandemic, especially, that we'd have large influxes of certain types of food. And that's very typical of food recovery, that you get a lot of, like, tomatoes at a certain season, or you get a lot of whatever. So the key is to collaborate, create networks that can distribute this, and that is one way to ensure that there's a broader access to healthy foods.
Thank you. Thanks for that. Jay, may we have the next question? And please continue to read them out as well.
Yeah, absolutely. So, we've gotten a couple of questions about this—so, sort of packaging them all together—on how could you improve coordination between jurisdictions?
Yes. And since Jennifer has already touched on that, I'm wondering if maybe Mike has some ideas from the EFG perspective in terms of improving coordination, because EFGs are— among the stakeholders, they're most likely to operate across jurisdiction and county lines.
Yeah, I think one of the unintended consequences of 1383 is that it's created this emphasis on municipalities, and we've taken away the ability for multi-unit operators to have systemwide programs in place. So I think in the large part, the food industry is going to help bridge that gap between jurisdictions, because they're going to require solutions that are applicable to all of their locations cross-jurisdictionally. And then, of course, there's just a common-sense realization that—especially in a heavily populated area—the county border, the city line means absolutely nothing. We need to really look at markets as opposed to jurisdictions. And the food industry will help us get to that point.
Thank you, Mike. And I'm wondering if Danielle or Kyle from Cal Recycle have any thoughts to share on cross-jurisdictional work for implementing SB 1383?
One thing that comes to mind is just some larger meetings. We've been parts— we've been a part of some really larger collaborative meetings that include multiple jurisdictions. Not always just jurisdictions—they often include food recovery orgs too. But, you know, kind of events like that that bring multiple voices and different perspectives in is something that we want to continue to see some more of, maybe.
Thank you. May we have the next question, please, Jay?
We have some questions about how enforcement is going to be handled.
Jennifer, want to take a stab at this one, since you're the jurisdiction perspective?
Well, I won't be able to touch up on this question too much, because we are still developing the enforcement. The first two years is, as I mentioned, it's very critical for us to provide educational outreach. So enforcement is really the last thing we want to do. We are recovering food for a good deed. It's not just to comply with the law. It's heartbreaking to see so much food got wasted while so many people are suffering from food insecurity. So, before we actually get to the enforcement, talking about— which we are still determining, like how many times we're— start putting on the fine and how much the fine will be. All this I don't have the details or information for you yet. But, it's more important at this stage is to make sure everybody understand and start doing it.
Thank you. And yeah, just to add to your answer, Jennifer, we had several local agency representatives in charge of implementing SB 1383 in their respective jurisdictions. And they, too, emphasize that they're working really hard on the outreach and education component, trying to persuade folks, you know, why they need to comply and that the enforcement part is on the back burner right now as a last resort if all else fails. So you're certainly not the only one sharing that view.
Great. Jay, may we have the next question?
Yeah. So, this question is: How should L.A. businesses that are eligible to donate food shape up and expand their organizations to deliver what's expected of them?
Thank you. And I think Mike is best positioned to answer that question. Mike?
Yeah. So, first of all, I think the best way that businesses can prepare for this is to establish their internal standard operating procedures. Identify those nonprofit agencies that they can work with that are going to protect their brand by handling food safely. Hold them to a higher talent. And in some ways, it's the way we advance the whole notion of this, is: let's look at really supporting impact as opposed to supporting the activity. And businesses will be able to prepare for this by setting those operating procedures, choosing their partners that they can work with, and then creating an atmosphere within the company that identifies all those benefits of participation. That's really how we kind of get businesses geared up and ready to go.
Thank you. Okay. We have just three minutes left. Jay, may we have another question? Let's see if this is the last one.
The two tiers, and— yeah. So, how were those two tiers established?
Thank you. Danielle and/or Kyle, do you want to comment on the rationale for the two tiers and how they were staggered?
Yeah. This might be more of why the two tiers were established versus how. For the how, a lot of outreach to stakeholders in the food businesses. But I want to also touch on why. The Tier 2 generators, we wanted to provide them additional time to prepare for their programs because typically they have more prepared foods that are not as easy to recover as more of the Tier 1 generators, which typically have packaged foods that food recovery orgs are really accustomed to recovering. So this Tier 2 provides additional time for them— not only the generators to prepare, but in some cases food recovery orgs that also might need to shift some of their operations to be prepared to recover more prepared foods and get those to people in need as well.
Thanks for that. And Kyle, did you have anything else to add to that?
Yeah. Thank you, Alina. Appreciate you including me in the Q&A panel at the end, too. And— we carefully selected the Tier 1 and Tier 2 generators based on data that we had available to us that showed the highest excess food generating businesses that existed. And we heard loud and clear through the rulemaking process that a [inaudible] approach would help [inaudible] explain there, that there needed an additional phase-in time to deal with the more prepared, difficult-to-handle foods. So, thank you.
Thanks for that, Kyle. Really appreciate it. Well, I'm afraid that's all we have time for today. I want to thank all the panelists for their thoughtful contributions to our discussion. And I also want to thank our audiovisual specialists, David Cherry, Jason Rogers, and Carmen Richard, and also my colleague Jay Balagna, who have provided technical support throughout. Don't forget to go to rand.org/foodrecovery where you can read our report, watch the video, and share these assets on social media platforms. And there you will also find information on how to get in touch with us if you have additional questions. But for now, it's goodbye from L.A.