California schools can now donate their leftover cafeteria food to local food banks and charities. Authored by state Senator Ed Hernandez, O.D., (D-West Covina) and sponsored by the Los Angeles Unified School District, Senate Bill 557 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.
“I am proud the Governor signed SB 557 into law, which gives schools the necessary tools to donate the food they do not use and help local communities suffering from food waste issues. We have millions of Californians who suffer from food insecurity. This is a positive step toward growing a fruitful relationship between schools and local charities in order to protect hungry Californians. Thank you to L.A. Unified for their continued collaboration to bring this idea into reality," said Senator Hernandez.
L.A. Unified serves nearly 650,000 meals to students daily. In the past, leftover food was thrown away. SB 557 allows unopened prepackaged food, uncut produce like apples, and cartons of milk kept at the appropriate temperature can be donated to food banks or other charities, to be distributed free of charge. Additionally, share tables, where food students don't want, will be available for students to who want more food.
The LA Unified Board of Education passed a resolution, “Healthy Food, Healthy Students, Healthy Communities” in 2011 to allow contributions of excess food to local food banks. However, this resolution did not allow for the donation of leftover food from daily meal service.
“Thank you to Governor Brown for signing SB 557 into law,” said L.A. Unified Superintendent Dr. Michelle King. “We would also like to extend a special thank you to Senator Hernandez for authoring this important legislation and for his unwavering support. Now, thanks to SB 557, even food and milk that has been served will be put to good use instead of thrown away and wasted. In a District as large as ours, these food donations will provide greater access to nutritious foods, while also helping to reduce child hunger.”
Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic said, “We would wish students eat all of their school meals, but now, whatever items they don’t want to eat can be legally donated. Considering that 1 in 6 Americans goes to bed hungry every night, this law will greatly assist us in providing for the nutritional needs of our communities. I applaud the efforts by the Legislature to help us assist the needy by removing unnecessary barriers to donate perfectly good excess food."
SB 557 is a step in the right direction for communities across California that are suffering through food droughts and shortages alike. With food banks seeing an increase in contributions, their reach and impact will expand to reach more people affected by hunger.