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Save Food, Grow Jobs: Creating A Food Recovery Service Sector

ALL IN Alameda County will develop a food recovery service sector that creates high quality paid jobs for food runners.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
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In 2014, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan launched ALL IN Alameda County: The New War on Poverty (ALL IN). ALL IN is an innovation incubator within county government; membership consists of community residents, nonprofit leaders, providers, and the business community. ALL IN is an ongoing anti-poverty initiative focused on food security, economic empowerment, and education. A Food Recovery Action Team, formed in February 2016, has surfaced a unique opportunity to accomplish three goals at once: employing people in good, sustainable jobs, feeding hungry people, and reducing the environmental impacts of food waste. In Alameda County, 1 in 5 residents is food insecure. At the same time, food and food-soiled paper makes up about 35% of the waste stream in Alameda County. The Food Recovery Action Team is working together to solve these problems.

Imagine a food recovery service sector that provides jobs to local, hard-to-employ residents. Imagine local businesses that save money on landfill and organics collection by paying a lesser fee for food recovery services. Imagine that food is the smallest single item in the county’s waste stream instead of the being the largest. Imagine Alameda County’s food recovery service sector becoming a model for counties across the country.

The Food Recovery Action Team is conducting research in five areas that will inform the design, plan, and implementation of a county-wide food recovery service sector. These areas have been identified as key components of a food recovery system that will sustainably and equitably address food waste and hunger throughout the county. The five research areas include:

1) Food Security: In what ways can a food recovery service sector reduce food insecurity among the most vulnerable populations, including seniors and the homeless?

2) Environmental Costs and Benefits: What are the environmental costs of food waste? What are the environmental benefits of food recovery?

3) A Paid Food Recovery Workforce: How can county-subsidized jobs transition to sustainable positions within the waste management field?

4) Leveraging Existing Infrastructure: What infrastructure currently exists and what is needed to professionally recover food? How do we collaboratively build and share a food recovery infrastructure?

5) Economic Costs and Benefits: What are the costs and benefits for businesses to participate in food recovery? How can a food recovery service sector be economically sustainable? 

*UPDATE: TIMELINE ADDED* 9/30/16

October-December 2016, Phase I: Planning
- On-board Food Recovery Action Team
- Ongoing planning meetings with partners
- Work with Waste Management to prepare and submit a proposal for CalRecycle's Green House Gas Reduction Program (State of California)
- Identify and secure additional funding commitments from government and philanthropic sources
- Identify and map existing food waste prevention and recovery infrastructure
- Design feasibility study to test assumptions of a paid food recovery service sector 
    - Identify population to be served 
    - Identify initial food donors and type of food to be recovered
    - Identify initial food recipient organizations
    - Identify infrastructure needs 

January -March 2017, Phase II: Project Design 
- Conduct feasibility study
- Based on study findings: 
    - Design pricing to incentivize business participation 
    - Design food recovery educational and branding/marketing campaign
    - Design food runner job training program in partnership with Civicorps,     
       Dept. of Environmental Health, and other stakeholders. 
    - Design monitoring and evaluation methodology 

April - June 2017, Phase III: Operations Plan 
- Develop a draft operations plan based on findings from feasibility study
- Secure commitment from initial food donors
- Secure commitment from initial food recipient organizations
- Develop partner agreements/memoranda of understanding for food running operations
- Obtain equipment and agreements regarding infrastructure

July-September 2017, Phase IV: Finalize Operations Plan 
- Finalize operations plan
- Develop expansion plan
- Hire and train food runners

September- December 2017, Phase V: Test, Monitor, & Evaluation Plan 
- Conduct trial runs of implementation plan
- Conduct on-going monitoring and evaluation of trial runs
- Adjust program based on findings

January 2018-March 2018, Phase VI: Implementation 
- Full launch of operations plan
- On-going monitoring and evaluation

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Because food recovery is already happening in Alameda County in fragmented ways, we have a ready ecosystem for quickly and easily piloting key elements of our plan before committing to major capital investments. There are a number of elements we can test to find out if our concept will meet our expectations; including, pricing models, paid workforce, job training, logistics, branding, marketing, and leveraging existing infrastructure such as transportation and warehouse facilities.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Evaluating Impact on Food Insecurity: How can we effectively map food insecurity, account for changes over time & the program’s impact? Leveraging & Engaging the Community: How can we effectively engage the food rescue/recovery efforts currently underway? Learn from History: What enabled the recycling sector to become institutionalized? Financial Feasibility: What sort of pricing of organic waste collection/franchise agreement language would incentivize food recovery & make it cost effective?

Tell us about your work experience:

Participants in the Food Recovery Action Team have experience in waste management, waste reduction, food recovery, food systems, environmental health, public health, public policy, nutrition, evaluation, and coalition building. We include elected officials, business executives, business owners, nonprofit executive directors, public agency staff, and individuals with lived experience of poverty and food insecurity.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

In Alameda County, 1 in 5 residents has trouble getting enough food to eat. At the same time, food and food-soiled paper make up about 35% of the county’s waste. ALL IN is developing a model of service industry jobs that involve delivering donated food, which would otherwise be thrown away, to residents who need it. The goal of this model is to reduce hunger and food waste at the same time.

How is your idea unique to the space?

The effort is unique because of our focus on a workforce-based food recovery model. Nationally and locally, the food recovery sector is underfunded and largely volunteer-based. This has led to critiques about the sustainability and efficiency of food recovery. A critical element of the food recovery service sector we are building is job creation through existing training and employment systems. Our approach has the potential to be a model for other cities and counties to adopt.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

The Food Recovery Action Team has the right combination of operational capacity and political will to deliver a solid pilot and take it to scale in a county of 1.6 million people. This collaboration has a diverse group of stakeholders, including Alameda County Dept. of Public Health and Environmental Health, ALL IN, Civicorps, Alameda County Community Food Bank, Waste Management, Food Shift, Port of Oakland, StopWaste, Northern CA Recycling Association, and Oakland Unified School District.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Continuous monitoring and evaluating will take place to refine our work, and to understand our impact on reducing food waste and food insecurity. Several of our partners already track some of the necessary measures; for example, the volume of food diverted from landfill, and the number of meals served. Other preliminary measures identified include Greenhouse gas emission reductions and jobs created. Qualitative data will also be gathered via interviews with stakeholders.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

The next steps for the Food Recovery Action Team include on-going planning meetings to finalize the design of the feasibility study, which will test the assumptions of our model. Specifically, the next steps for the planning process are to identify recipients and type of food desired, identify donors and type of food to be recovered, define food handling protocols, identify equipment and infrastructure needs, identify additional funding streams for the pilot, and develop evaluation criteria.

Attachments (1)

OpenIDEO.pdf

The Food Recovery Action Team is in the planning phase for the operations plan. We are developing the systems, structures, and relationships needed to conduct trial runs of the operation plan. The attached document provides insight from partners on the scope of this initiative as well as important next steps for our planning.

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Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

On behalf of Alameda County Department of Environmental Health: 

Alameda County Department of Environmental Health’s (ACDEH) mission is to protect the health and well being of the public through promotion of environmental quality.
Our primary responsibility, as a regulatory agency, is to enforce environmental health requirements related to local and state laws at permitted facilities that provide services and products to the public.
However, DEH realizes that If the public doesn’t have access to safe and healthy foods, their health will be compromised. Partnering with other agencies to ensure that the public has access to healthy foods provides an additional avenue to support the community that ACDEH strives to protect.

Photo of Melanie Weir
Team

Courtney  I'm interested in getting involved in this project, if you still need team collaboration and help with research & evaluation. I've been doing research in Sacramento County for several years and also am working on an international collaborative project on food recovery with 3 months of research in food innovation and food access focused on projects currently happening in London.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Hi Melanie,

Thanks for your interest in this initiative. My email is courtney.gonzales@acgov.org. Can you send me an email and we can set up some time to talk? 

Photo of Melanie Weir
Team

Sending over an email now.

Photo of Cassie Bartholomew
Team

StopWaste, a public agency in Alameda County, is an active partner and supporter of All In Alameda County's IDEO Food Recovery Challenge- to establish a county-wide food recovery service and workforce development sector.  We provide local governments, businesses, schools and residents with resources to reduce waste through: source reduction and recycling, market development, technical assistance, and public education. 

Approximately 45% of the waste that restaurants and schools currently send to county landfill includes food waste so it's essential to prioritize the top two tiers of the EPA Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy, prevent and recover edible surplus food (then compost the inedible scraps). We're proud to partner with the many impactful organizations involved in this food recovery effort who are working to alleviate hunger and achieve our county waste reduction goals.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thanks, Cassie! We're proud to have StopWaste as a partner in this effort. 

Photo of Dave Brown
Team

This is fantastic! How do I get involved?

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Hi Dave, 
I've added you to our challenge team!

Photo of Maen Mahfoud
Team

Hi Courtney Gonzales  - great idea! I love how you are involving the local government in the process of food recovery. Have you considered partnering with 3rd party professional food rescue organizations like Re-plate.org  foodrunners, and food recovery network. If yes, what do you envision the nature of this partnership?

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Hi Maen, 
I've met with Re-plate to learn about their operations and also share what we're doing in Oakland. There's definitely a place and need in the food recovery ecosystem for food rescue organizations such as the ones you mentioned. However, because we're focused on developing a food recovery service sector we're partnering with Waste Management and Civicorps who would essentially be doing the food running. That includes recruiting, developing curriculum, and piloting food running positions. The food runners would be a part of Civicorps' program, and Waste Management would help with curriculum, marketing, routing logistics.

Photo of Maen Mahfoud
Team

Courtney Gonzales great stuff. I would definitely encourage you to collaborate with Re-Plate.Org and other logistic technologies to streamline the recovery process and make it as seamless as possible.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

We're definitely open to staying in conversation with Re-Plate and others. Our process is all about collaboration and inclusiveness. Let's stay in touch. 

Photo of Brian Tang
Team

What a great food rescue community you have in Alameda! 

As part of our Be an Urban Food Rescuer... Pokemon Go style! [UPDATE 6/10: Walk21HK CityTech Award Winner!] , one of the original elements was for the dehydration of the rescued fruit into healthy snacks for all to enjoy was to have disadvantaged communities assist with the dehydration process (which is very easy and straightforward - this after all started as 9 year old boy's project! See https://www.facebook.com/ZacSnax/videos/ )  Some have recommended to us that it complicates the process, but we do believe that it provides an invaluable opportunity for job creation. We welcome your input on this, and opportunities for collaboration. 

Photo of Susan
Team

The Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA) is pleased to be a part of the challenge to reduce food waste in Alameda County. NCRA promotes waste reduction, reuse, salvaging, recycling, and composting as vital tools for resource and energy conservation, and as cost-effective, environmentally sound methods of disposing of discarded materials and we believe that a food recovery service sector is in alignment with that mission.

NCRA fully supports exploring the establishment of a food recovery service sector. We're proud to work in partnership with the many organizations involved in this effort. Alameda County has a great opportunity to be an innovator in addressing food waste. 

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thanks, Susan! We're proud to NCRA as a partner in this initiative. 

Photo of Tessa
Team

Civicorps is excited to be a part of this challenge to reduce food waste in Alameda County and to create job training opportunities for Oakland youth.  Civicorps' mission is to re-engage young adults, so they can earn a high school diploma, gain job skills, pursue college, and embark on family sustaining careers. Alameda County has a great opportunity to provide other counties across the country with a model of paid food recovery that connects county, nonprofit, and corporate partners in a united mission.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thanks, Tessa! We're excited that Civicorps is on board. 

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Welcome to the Refinement phase Courtney! We've added new Refinement questions to your original submission that we'd love for you to answer. Please check out the Refinement Phase Toolkit for instructions on how to answer the new questions and other recommendations we encourage all idea teams to consider in the upcoming weeks.

Refinement Phase Toolkit: http://ideo.pn/2du9sf7

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 09/28" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Also, Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thank you for the toolkit and the helpful tips. We're excited to be a part of this Refinement Phase! We'll also be sure to add some images. 

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thank you for the toolkit and the helpful tips. We're excited to be a part of this Refinement Phase! We'll also be sure to add some images. 

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Courtney, we updated the link to the Refinement Toolkit. Please use this new link instead! https://d3gxp3iknbs7bs.cloudfront.net/attachments/bda1f109-0466-4f8e-9699-1359e406df56.pdf

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thank you! Also, is there someone I can speak with about the prototype component of the Refinement Stage? 

Photo of Amber Matthews
Team

Awesome project. Sustainability should include economic sustainability.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thanks, Amber. I would say that we are definitely in agreement with that statement. I updated the #5 research area to include the research question, How can a food recovery service sector be economically sustainable? Please let me know if you see other ways in which we could be examining that concept and incorporating it into our work. 

Photo of Eric Steiner
Team

I love this initiative especially as it's being led by local government. Any thoughts about involving private industry especially grocery retail companies? Transportation is a fundamental component of moving food and people, any partnerships with those stakeholders that could be explored?

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Hi Eric, 

Thanks for your question. In Alameda County the Alameda County Community Food Bank (who is a partner in our food recovery efforts) has a Grocery Rescue Program where they work with most of the major grocery store chains in the county and they do a great job at recovering those foods. For this project we're looking at recovering food that no one is focusing on yet. Therefore, we've talked about recovering prepared foods from caterers, large hotels and other businesses that have large amounts of prepared food on a somewhat regular basis. We agree that transportation is key and is often noted as a barrier to food recovery. This is why we're exploring the possibility of purchasing refrigerated trucks and working with Waste Management on the transportation logistics. We've also begun to explore the idea of approaching food distributors to see if food recovery would be an interest to them. 

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Courtney!

Congratulations on progressing to the refinement phase. Do you have timescales for when you plan to get certain activities done with milestones etc.? 

You might get some additional insight from this idea (also in the refinement phases) - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-waste/refinement/dc-food-recovery-working-group-s-3-citywide-initiatives-to-complete-a-scalable-working-group-model-to-be-implemented-in-other-cities/comments#!c-4b4811becc9bc3745ccce73a9bae8d84

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Hi Kate, 

Thanks for the great news! I've pasted a timeline with key activities below. We're excited to move onto and engage in the next stage of refinement. 


October-December 2016

- Ongoing planning meetings with Food Recovery Action Team, which includes Alameda County Dept. of Public Health, Alameda County Dept. of Environmental Health, ALL IN Alameda County, Waste Management, Food Shift, Port of Oakland, StopWaste, Northern CA Recycling Association, Oakland Unified School District, and the City of Oakland. Secure partner commitments, and identify opportunities to leverage resources.

- Work with Waste Management to prepare and submit a proposal for CalRecycle's Green House Gas Reduction Program (State of California)

- Identify and secure additional funding commitments from government and philanthropic sources

- Design feasibility study to test assumptions of model



January -March 2017

- Implement feasibility study

- Analyze findings of feasibility study, and prepare a report on the findings

- Determine cost structures/financial incentives for businesses to participate, based on findings from feasibility study

- Design food recovery educational and branding/marketing campaign

- Design food runner job training program in partnership with Civicorps, Dept. of Environmental Health, and other stakeholders



April - June 2017

- Develop a draft operations plan based on findings from feasibility study

- Identify and secure commitment from initial food donors

- Identify initial food recipient organizations

- Develop partner agreements/memoranda of understanding for food running operations

- Obtain equipment and agreements regarding infrastructure



July-September 2017

- Create a final operations plan

- Hire and train food runners



September- December 2017

- Trial runs of implementation plan

- On-going monitoring and evaluation of trial runs

- Adjust program based on findings



January 2018

- Full launch of operations plan

- On-going monitoring and evaluation

Photo of Dana Frasz
Team

Yah!  This has been Food Shift's vision since our launch in 2012 and we very much look forward to working with Alameda County to build this model! Learn more about our vision and our work here: http://www.wehatetowaste.com/food-shift-food-recovery/

Photo of Julie Fineman
Team

I love this idea.  Each county, city, town, village should have a model like this.  Once you have this built, Peak Plate will be your connector to let your restaurants, grocers, food services for institutions know you exist and use your services.  I'd love your feed back as well on our platform idea.  Please check out my last post to see the results of our survey and a snap shot of what Peak Plate will look like when it's up and running.    Join us as a founding member at www.PeakPlate.com
  Julie Ann Fineman

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Thanks for your comment, Julie. From reviewing the website, it looks like Peak Plate's main focus will be sourcing food from farms and bringing it to chefs who will then prepare the food into meals. Is that correct? If so, does that mean that Peak Plate transports the food? Will Peak Plate also distribute meals and food to food recovery and food assistance programs? Will there be a cost associated with these services? 

Photo of Julie Fineman
Team

Courtney Gonzales , Peak Plate is a real time NETWORK to connect food sellers to food service providers.  Once connections are made, logistics like transportation will be up to the seller. Though within our network, for the smaller farmer who needs this kind of support, there will those who will be able to provide transportation.  That is the beauty of Peak Plate. The same applies on the food recovery aspect of our network.  Those who are providing logistics will be charging for their services to be a economically sustainable business.  Make sense?

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Got it. Thanks for the explanation.

Photo of Prasanna Shrivastava
Team

Great initiative. I had something similar in mind when I was thinking about this problem. I agree that you need a self sustainable model in place for this initiative. I can recommend a possible supply chain for your initiative and can also help you with the business case. Let's get in touch.

Photo of Courtney Gonzales
Team

Hi Prasanna. Thanks for your comment and offer to support. We should be in contact as the project moves forward.