Q&A With the Senior Manager of Sourcing and Sustainability at Second Harvest Food Bank

Jason Hatcher, senior manager of sourcing and sustainability at Second Harvest Food Bank; Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Tell us about the grocery rescue program.
(We) partner with more than 250 grocery stores and supermarkets throughout Orange County. They have products approaching their best-by or use-by date that won’t sell. We go in and rescue the food and redistribute it within 48 hours of bringing it back to our distribution center in Irvine. We have a network of 312 partners—kitchens, pantries, senior centers—throughout the county that we distribute to nearly every day of the week. Last year, we rescued nearly 15 million pounds (of food) here.

Why is there so much food waste in the U.S.?
A gallon of milk, for example, can last approximately four to seven days past its use-by date, (which is) not an expiration date. The reason it says “use by” is mainly for quality and not because of safety. However, if you’re going to your grocery store and you see a gallon of milk and it’s even one or two days before that use-by date, you’re likely not going to purchase it. So the store’s dairy manager would pull the milk that’s two days from that date and put it in the grocery rescue donation box. We would receive it, double-check the dates, and redistribute it so it would have plenty of life left.

How does food waste figure into this discussion?
Food waste is a big contributor to climate change. Food waste wastes everything—water, land used, labor, and the (energy) used to transport it. When food decays, it creates its own greenhouse-gas emissions. Of all the food waste in the country, nearly 40 percent comes from (stores and restaurants), and nearly one-third of all the food produced in the U.S. ends up getting wasted. It’s not acceptable when, across the nation, one in nine people are at risk of hunger. We can eliminate waste and hunger at once

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