$100 Billion in Food Waste Curbed by Local Food Bank

12:00pm | In 2003, Timothy Jones, an anthropology professor from the University of Arizona, released the results of his eight-year study about food waste that was financed by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The study differed from previous USDA studies in that, instead of analyzing simple "plate waste" (the food actually discarded from prepared meals), Jones scoured through the garbage of Americans, from businesses to people who volunteered their own garbage cans for analysis.

The results were alarming: some 50 million tons of edible food is wasted each year, amounting to $100 billion dollars in waste for reasons ranging from crops being unused due to faulty demand prediction to throwing away perfectly edible food for apparently no reason whatsoever. On the latter point, one of the most disturbing things Jones discovered was that 14% of the garbage sifted through was perfectly edible, unopened food products that weren't even out of date. Even fast-food chains, which often boast of their efficiency, throw out around 10% of their food.

Given this bewildering amount of waste in comparison to the disproportionate number of those hungry -- the most recent data shows that in 2009, L.A. county alone had some 1.7 million residents who struggled with hunger, amounting to a staggering $2.6 billion needed to meet county food needs -- it seems that we could use a hero.

Enter Food Finders based here in Long Beach.

Started 22 years ago in Seal Beach, this non-profit is a multi-regional food bank that serves agencies and shelters in both L.A. and Orange counties, many of which are local to Long Beach. Interim Executive Director Patti Larson recently explained to the Long Beach Post what makes Food Finders different from other food banks: "Unlike other food banks, we don't have a giant warehouse where we store food. Our food is fresh for more nutritional value and delivered on the same day we receive it."

Over the past two decades, they have collected 80 million pounds of food, an endeavor that makes it one of the most giving of food banks in the nation. However, this past November the agency faced one of its toughest times yet, having to move its location to Signal Hill due to limited resources and a tightening economy. It's former location on Atlantic Avenue had a retail arm, Finders Keepers, that offered furniture and other home needs. However, Larson and her crew found it too difficult to maintain hours and generate enough income to to justify keeping this location open.

The new location is at 2301 East 28th Street, Suite 303, in Signal Hill. For more information, visit www.foodfinders.org.

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