The Los Angeles Unified School District serves nearly 650,000 meals a day to its students, including breakfast, lunch — and now at some schools, vegan lunch — and an afternoon meal the district calls “supper.” And not all of that food gets eaten.
But earlier this week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will make it easier for schools across the state to donate those leftovers to charities and food pantries.
LAUSD was a sponsor of Senate Bill 557, from state Sen. (and Dr.) Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina. Under the new law, public schools can give their unopened packaged food, unopened milk cartons (kept cold) and uncut produce, like apples, to food banks and other charities. In LAUSD, kids who don’t eat everything they take in the cafeteria can leave that extra food on “share” tables, where kids who want more to eat can take the food. But what’s left from those tables gets thrown out, LAUSD said. The new law means that food can instead go to charities and food banks.
Thanks to the bill, “even food and milk that has been served will be put to good use instead of thrown away and wasted,” said LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King. “In a district as large as ours, these food donations will provide greater access to nutritious foods while also helping to reduce child hunger.”
LAUSD Food Services Director Joseph Vaughn said the bill takes away barriers that made it difficult to donate the district’s leftover food. Previously, the district could only donate food and milk that had not been served.
Board members commended the bill. Board Member Scott Schmerelson, representing schools in the West Valley, said he’s seen how much nutritious food can be wasted at schools because of “burdensome restrictions.
“L.A. Unified has made a lot of progress limiting food waste,” he said. “SB 557 will provide even more options for avoiding waste and feeding the hungry.”