A new state law that was co-sponsored by state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. seeks to donate excess or uneaten food from public schools to the poor and needy throughout New York.
“The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food waste makes up approximately 14 percent of solid municipal waste in the nation each year, which translates into about 34 million tons annually,” Addabbo, a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee, said in an Oct. 20 statement. “This new law holds great potential for reducing food waste in educational institutions while lending an important helping hand to individuals, seniors, families and children who face challenges in getting enough to eat.”
The law, which goes into effect in March, requires the state Education Department and Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop guidelines to begin donation programs in school districts across New York.
Food from school cafeterias is often disposed of due to bad weather, power outages and is sometimes unused if a student is absent or leaves school early. And in New York City, if a student picks up a food item but does not eat it, it must be thrown away.
Another law co-sponsored by Addabbo requires entities that contract with school districts to donate leftover food or use donated scraps for composting, creating soap or bio-diesels.
“The reuse of excess food, in addition to addressing heartbreaking hunger issues in our communities, has great benefits for our entire environment,” said Addabbo. “It reduces the amount of organic waste in our landfills, and allows vegetable matter to become valuable compost for farmers and gardeners. It can also help create employment opportunities in the growing ‘green jobs’ sector of our economy.”
According to Hunger Free America, 424,307 New York City residents did not have enough food from 2013 to 2015 and about one-in-five children experienced hunger on an almost daily basis.
“I look forward to tracking the progress and success of the new law encouraging school food donations when it goes into effect in the spring,” the senator said. “When the new legislative session begins in January, I will also work to expand opportunities for more innovative methods of reducing food waste, protecting our environment, and addressing the very serious problem of hunger in our communities.”