The Coast News Group

Oceanside is upping its efforts to reduce waste, lower emissions

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is upping its efforts to reduce waste and lower greenhouse gas emissions by rescuing edible food. The process also purposes food that is overbought and goes towards feeding people.

Food rescue takes bruised fruits and vegetables and unsold food that would go into the landfill, and uses it to create meals and food goods.

Food products are then sold at a low cost to soup kitchens and senior meal programs, which makes food rescue efforts sustainable.

About 30 to 40 percent of current city food waste is still edible. At the same time one in five people in the county can not rely on having their next meal.

“There are a lot of important reasons why it’s a good thing,” Colleen Foster, the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling senior management analyst, said.

The plan is modeled after Kitchens For Good, which operates in San Diego and serves North County.

Founder Chuck Samuelson said the nonprofit partners with local farms, provides culinary job training and produces locally sourced, fresh from-scratch meals to Encinitas and San Marcos senior centers.

Oceanside efforts are in their genesis. The first step is allocating funds to build a kitchen.

The idea was presented, and fund allocations recommended at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on April 12.

City Waste and Recycling staff will also present the project to other commissions before bringing funding approval to the City Council as part of the larger Water Utilities Department capital improvement project budget in May.

The proposed kitchen site is at the El Corazon Senior Center, which has space but lacks funds to build a kitchen next to its dining lounge.

If approved the kitchen would be constructed specifically for the food rescue program, with sizable freezers and refrigerators and full cooking facilities. The kitchen could also serve culinary training and site catering uses.

A budget of $400,000 would be stretched to build a kitchen with used appliances.

The city is also pursuing state grants for additional funds.

City staff hopes to see the kitchen constructed within two years. It’s expected operations would provide 79,000 meals, and divert 25,000 pounds of edible food from the landfill annually.

Next steps are to secure a private partner to run the kitchen, arrange food donations and transportation, and the trucking of compostable food waste to the nearby El Corazon Compost Facility.

Future efforts would include coordinating food donation pickups with direct drop-offs to soup kitchens.

“It’s very conceptual,” Foster said. “The city is not in the business of culinary arts, it’s in the business of connecting.”

City efforts are part of a plan to achieve 75 to 90 percent waste diversion by 2020.