It's no secret that food insecurity is a huge issue, especially when it comes to access to fresh produce. But though 50 million Americans struggle with food insecurity, 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is wasted, according to Food Shift, which has a way to address food insecurity and food waste while also fighting social inequality at the same time.
Food Shift is an 8-year-old East Bay nonprofit headed by executive director and founder Dana Frasz. Food Shift recovers fresh produce that would otherwise be wasted, then redistributes some of that produce to food banks and other organizations. Meanwhile, Food Shift also runs a paid culinary job training program for people struggling with homelessness, addiction, or histories of incarceration. The rest of the food is used by trainees to gain cooking skills or to fulfill catering orders for Food Shift's vegetarian catering business. Most of those catering orders are provided to local nonprofits at cost; other catering orders come from businesses like Clif Bar that believe in Food Shift's model and are able to pay full cost. The revenue from catering orders, in turn, helps keep Food Shift going.
Aside from feeding people, reducing waste, and creating job opportunities, Food Shift is also combating climate change by rescuing food — a total of 120,000 pounds a year — that would otherwise contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to Frasz, Food Shift's food recovery efforts also save 90 million liters of water per year and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to 70,000 miles of driving.
"Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to climate change," Frasz said. "There's so much methane going into the air from this rotting food because most of it doesn't get composted and recycled."
For the past three years, Food Shift has been based at the Alameda Point Collaborative, a supportive housing community dedicated to combating homelessness and cycles of poverty. Since then, 25 APC residents (out of a total of 200 adult residents) have graduated from Food Shift's six-month job training program. Food Shift continues to support participants after graduation, and many of those graduates have gone on to pursue careers in the food and service industry. Food Shift also recently partnered with the Oakland Private Industry Council, which will allow Food Shift to support a broader pool of participants beyond Alameda.
But as Food Shift looks to expand the reach of its job training efforts, the nonprofit needs more kitchen space access. The kitchen at APC is shared by several other organizations, so in order to support more trainees, offer more job training time, and fulfill more catering orders, Food Shift would either need to rent out the APC kitchen full time or move to a bigger kitchen space. A bigger kitchen would also allow Food Shift to recover even more produce, further reducing water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
To support Food Shift's increased kitchen access, Food Shift launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign on Oct. 22 with a fundraising goal of $40,000. As a token of thanks, donors will also be invited to Food Shift's annual celebration on Dec. 14, where Food Shift advisor and food recovery activist Robert Egger will be a guest speaker. To learn more about Food Shift, donate to its crowdfunding campaign, or request catering services, visit FoodShift.net.