Feeding San Diego Chief Operations Officer Alicia Saake sat down with Alex Reep from the United Nations Association San Diego Chapter to discuss food insecurity in San Diego County and how to address it through food rescue. Feeding San Diego’s food rescue andistribution model aligns with U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 2 “No Hunger” and Goal 13 “Climate Action” by diverting good food from landfills and distributing it to people facing hunger in the community. 

Q & A with Alex Reep and Alicia Saake  

Alex: Hello everybody and welcome to the February U.N. Info Session. The United Nations Association San Diego Chapter was founded in 1946 to promote local engagement with the United Nations, and it’s one of the oldest and most active chapters within the United States. 

Today, we’ll be discussing food rescue and food security which are vital to achieving U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 2 “No Hunger” and Goal 13 for “Climate Action.”  

We, and our local and global partners, believe that hunger can be eradicated within the next generation by preventing waste and promoting nutrition. Thus, we are honored to be joined by Alicia Saake, the Chief Operations Officer at Feeding San Diego, which is the leading hunger relief organization in San Diego County. Feeding San Diego is on a mission to rescue food before it goes to waste, and they serve over 26 million meals a year to locals in need. Welcome Alicia. 

Alex: What is food insecurity?  

Alicia: Food insecurity is defined as lacking consistent access to enough food for a healthy and active lifestyle. It is distinct from hunger in that hunger refers to a personal, physical sense of discomfort. Food insecurity is a lack of financial resources at a household level to provide regular access to sufficient food 

Alex: Would you mind elaborating on how food insecurity impacts San Diego? 

Alicia: One in eight people are food insecure, including one in six kidsOne of the many ways we address this is through our School Pantry program. The pantries happen when kids are picked up or dropped off at school, so it makes it really easy for the family to access food. We also work with 300 community partners across San Diego County so people can get food right where they live, work, and play. We don’t want people to have to add one more burden to their day, and we make it as easy as possible. 

Alex: What is food rescue or food reclamation? 

Alicia: Ninety-seven percent of the food we distribute is rescued and would have otherwise gone to waste. We’re capturing food from more than 530 locations all over the county, including all the grocery stores you might get your food from. We work with partners to pick up that food where it is and distribute it. We also capture produce from up and down the coast, here locally and also food that comes up from Mexico. This food often doesn’t meet our market standards. It’s not all the same size, shape, or color. It might be slightly blemished, but it’s still perfectly good to eat: the carrots with legs, the sweet potato that looks like a duck. Still perfectly good to eat, but would have otherwise headed to the landfill. 

Alex: Can you elaborate on those environmental repercussions of food waste? 

Alicia: Yes, food is the number one organic in our landfill that’s causing issues for our climate. Eight percent of global greenhouse gasses can be attributed to food waste and 34% of all methane emissions are coming from our landfills. The EPA has a food recovery hierarchy. It’s an upside down pyramid, with the goal to help reduce the food waste that’s going to the landfill. The first goal is resource reduction: we want less food that needs to be rescued. The second is what we’re doing, to feed hungry people. Then there’s feed animals. Feeding San Diego is also working on that. When food is not safe for human consumption, we partner with a pig farmer who provides that food to his pigs. If there’s anything left after that, it goes to compost.  

Final thoughts: 

Alex: Just to underscore the importance of the work of Feeding San Diego. We talked about people not having enough income to pay rent or medicine, so they are less able to buy healthful groceries. The reason these goals are number 1 and 2 (out of the 17 SDGs) is because, if we can’t solve these issues first, we can’t achieve our other goals like quality education or gender equity, etc.

Alicia: Without food, you really can’t do much else.  

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