New Law Allows Schools to Donate Food and Milk from Share Tables

LOS ANGELES (Sept. 25, 2017) - Schools across California can now donate their cafeteria leftovers to local foodbanks and charities. Senate Bill 557 authored by state Senator Ed Hernandez, O.D., (D-West Covina) and sponsored by the Los Angeles Unified School District, was signed into law, today, by Governor Jerry Brown.

“I am proud the Governor signed SB 557 into law, which gives schools the necessary tools to donate the food they do not use and help local communities suffering from food waste issues,” said Senator Hernandez. “We have millions of Californians who suffer from food insecurity. This is a positive step toward growing a fruitful relationship between schools and local charities in order to protect hungry Californians. Thank you to L.A. Unified for their continued collaboration to bring this idea into reality.”

“Thank you to Governor Brown for signing SB 557 into law,” said L.A. Unified Superintendent Dr. Michelle King. “We would also like to extend a special thank you to Senator Hernandez for authoring this important legislation and for his unwavering support. Now, thanks to SB 557, even food and milk that has been served will be put to good use instead of thrown away and wasted. In a District as large as ours, these food donations will provide greater access to nutritious foods, while also helping to reduce child hunger.”

SB 557 allows public schools to donate certain food items to food banks, and will ensure that hungry Californians across the state will have access to the food that they need.

School Board Vice President Moníca García said, “In L.A. Unified, we create solutions that can be replicated across California and the nation. Our 2011 policy to help end hunger in Los Angeles is now state law that will save taxpayer dollars, help the environment, and propel more youth and families towards the graduation finish line, together. We thank the California legislature and Gov. Brown for approving this Kids First common sense legislation.”

Every school day, L.A. Unified serves nearly 650,000 meals to students. Since some children are picky eaters and many youngsters often take more than they can eat, they are allowed to put what they don’t want on share tables. Those items are available for children who want additional food, but the leftovers are thrown into the trash. Not anymore. Unopened prepackaged food, uncut produce like apples, and cartons of milk kept at the appropriate temperature can be donated to food banks or other charities, to be distributed free of charge.

“In a state with so much abundance, we celebrate removing this hurdle, and helping fewer families worry about where their next meal will come from,” School Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna, III, said.

Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said, “As a former principal, I know how much perfectly nutritious food can be wasted at schools because of burdensome restrictions. L.A. Unified has made a lot of progress limiting food waste, including certain donations to neighborhood charities, a program my office encourages and supports in Board District 3. SB 557 will provide even more options for avoiding waste and feeding the hungry.”

Board Member Nick Melvoin said, “At a time when many families struggle to put food on the table, I am glad that L.A. Unified is able to contribute to this creative solution to both combat hunger and reduce food waste.”

Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez said, “Our communities have disparate needs with access to different food sources. I commend Senator Hernandez for championing the opportunity for students to reflect deeply about the needs of their local neighborhoods, so that they can develop their understanding of responsibility, reciprocity, and charity.”

Board Member Kelly Gonez said, “This is a win-win legislation that benefits families, L.A. Unified, and the environment. By reducing restrictions on districts, we now have the opportunity to feed more families and reduce food waste across our schools.”

Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic said, “We would wish students eat all of their school meals, but now, whatever items they don’t want to eat can be legally donated. Considering that 1 in 6 Americans goes to bed hungry every night, this law will greatly assist us in providing for the nutritional needs of our communities. I applaud the efforts by the Legislature to help us assist the needy by removing unnecessary barriers to donate perfectly good excess food. "

Donating excess food to charities is not new at L.A. Unified. In fact, the Board of Education passed a resolution, “Healthy Food, Healthy Students, Healthy Communities” in 2011 to allow contributions to charities that serve needy children and families. But, only food and milk that had not been served at our schools could be given away.

"I think this bill is fantastic,” said Food Service Director Joseph Vaughn. “It removes several barriers that have made it difficult to donate food.”  

“SB 557 will further help the district reduce our organic waste by giving us the ability to donate perfectly good food, instead of introducing it to the waste stream,” said Director for Environmental Health and Safety Robert Laughton. “For every 20 percent reduction in organic waste, the District will save on average $45,000 per week in rubbish-hauling expenses, and reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfills or other recycling facilities.”

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Ellen Morgan (213) 241-6766