Of all the food mass produced in the United States, 40 percent of it is wasted.
Jeanette Brizendine, the city of Federal Way’s Solid Waste & Recycling project manager, said this during the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Dec. 5.
Then, she picked up a tray holding 10 homemade cupcakes, fresh from her kitchen, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention. Without saying anything, she picked up four of those cupcakes and threw them unceremoniously into a small clear bin, eliciting some gasps from audience members.
“Forty percent,” Brizendine said again, to show exactly how much waste that was on a smaller, more relatable scale.
Since she then had the audience’s full attention, Brizendine then launched into the food waste program she is helping implement with the city’s Waste & Recycling Department.
The city was given the King County commercial food waste grant of $24,500 to start this program earlier this year, so it’s a brand new project Brizendine said she is happy to be part of. The new program works with FDA-approved restaurants and kitchens in grocery stores, meaning the area in which the food is donated follows the strict FDA guidelines to prevent the spread of food-related illness and bacteria.
For example, in FDA-regulated kitchens or restaurants, prepared food that was never served to customers can be donated, where in a private residence that is not the case.
Acceptable food donations include fresh produce that cannot be used before it spoils, canned or packaged goods, prepared foods that have not left the kitchen, and bread and pastries that have not been served.
Private residences, of course, have different guidelines.
Because private homes are not regulated by the FDA, Brizendine said, they cannot accept food from private residents that is not canned, packaged or otherwise sealed.
This program has a heavy emphasis on food rescue from commercial establishments, with donors like Grocery Outlet and Fred Meyer, as well as the Federal Way Farmers Market.
The Multi-Service Center picks up the food donations and they are transported to different feeding programs, so nothing goes to waste.
Some of the feeding programs the donations go to include Food Lifeline and South King County Food Coalition.
Terri Turner, the food and clothing bank director, is the person in charge of handling the food donation pick-up as well as transporting the donations to the various feeding programs.
Brizendine connects with the donors, and once everything is approved on her end, she passes along the contact information to Turner with pick-up times and locations, she said.
Turner sees the merits of this program to help reduce food waste and simultaneously go to feeding those who need it.
“It is keeping food from being thrown away and putting it to good use feeding people in our community,” she said.
Like Brizendine, food waste is something Turner has a particular interest in.
She has been working in the food bank arena since the mid-1990s, she said, which involves a lot of donated food.
“When you start to see all the perfectly good food that goes to waste it is sort of shocking. If more of that food can go to people who need it, it benefits not just hungry people,” she said. “It also benefits all of society through helping cut down waste that can, in the long run, damage our environment.”