Leftovers | Nate Neustadt
Across the US, 6.1 million kids suffered from food insecurity in 2020. The uptick ended a decade-long decline in adolescent food insecurity. No matter where someone lives in the US, food insecurity exists, including our school district.
SDUHSD has more than 12,700 students enrolled across its five middle schools and four high schools. Even though our district is located in an affluent area with a median house income of $143,421, students still suffer from a lack of nutrition. In Carmel Valley, our employment rate is 3.9%, 0.3% higher than the national average of 3.6% according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Food is vital for child development. The average teenager needs between
2,000 to 3,000 calories a day to be able to focus during school, retain information, and growth of all kinds, according to Winchester Hospital.
To counteract the rise of food insecurity, SDUHSD works with the government to create food programs to feed their students. The district participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the National School Breakfast Program (NSBP). According to research by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), NSLP and NSBP help kids consume fewer empty calories and instead give them more fruits, vegetables, fiber, and calcium.
Along with programs like NSLP and NSBP, SDUHSD must comply with The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This Act sets certain calorie, fat, protein, vegetable, fruit, and grain requirements per meal to make sure each student is receiving a healthy diet.
But not all kids end up eating school lunches, and sometimes there are leftovers. A new California state law, SB1383, requires all schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and homes to donate their extra food in hopes of reducing methane and CO2 emissions. To comply with the law, SDUHSD is experimenting with the Share Table Program in Oak Crest Middle School. Through this new program tables or carts are set up around school campuses for kids to donate their extra food – either food brought from home or school food. It is a student-led program that SDUHSD is hoping to introduce in all schools across the district.
If schools do not have a Share Table Program, they must comply with EDCO’s Organic Waste and Recycling Program and SB1383 requirements and recycle their food. EDCO, a waste management company, serves California communities across the state and provides environmentally-friendly solutions to pollution problems. Just like SB1383, the Organic Waste and Recycling Program requires partners to recycle or compost extra food. Using recycled food, EDCO creates compost that they use in soil restoration. At Canyon Crest Academy, our nutrition services have anywhere between 0-1 pound of extra food per day. Working with EDCO and complying with SB1383, they donate all leftover food to better the environment.
Even though the government has created programs and laws to counteract food waste and food insecurity, a local group in SDUHSD started a non-profit, 92130 Cares was started in 2020 intending to help families affected by the pandemic by giving them food donated from grocery stores. Working with Jimbo’s, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods, 92130 Cares collects and distributes around 1,000 pounds of food every Sunday to 40 families across the 92130 zip code in Carmel Valley. The organization also works with local elementary schools to teach kids how to recycle their food. In elementary school, students tend to be picky eaters. They love to skip their daily vegetable and fruit intake by throwing them away in the trash; this is nutritious food vital to the development of adolescents. Instead of chucking their food into trash cans, 92130 teaches kids to bring their extra food back to the lunch line or bring it home to their parents so they can donate it to food pantries across San Diego.
New laws like SB1383 and the Organic Waste and Recycling Program, created by EDCO, are helping reduce food waste and better our environment through reduced carbon emissions. But, sometimes, it’s not enough. Getting involved or creating local organizations like 92130 Cares has a massive impact on the community you live in and can reduce food insecurity.
If you live in San Diego and would like to learn more about 92130 Cares, visit: https://www.92130cares.org/, and if you don’t here’s a link to find your nearest food bank: https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank.