People Plates Planet started in 2021, the year when California schools began providing free lunch for all students via the State Meal Mandate. The free lunch program benefited many students, but we also witnessed a rising food-waste phenomenon, with trash bins containing perfectly edible food. Meanwhile, just across the street, many were suffering through hunger and food insecurity at the Opportunity Center.
Accelerate Action to Combat Global Warming:
Most students are unaware of the unintended climate-related effect of food ending up in landfills. Food waste is a leading cause of exacerbating the climate change crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up to 40% of all food in the U.S. goes to waste. In Palo Alto alone, 26% of garbage is composed of food waste. When wasted food ends up in landfills, the rotting process generates methane, a harmful greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Yearly, 135 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions are created by American food waste, as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Tons of energy, land, labor, and 25% of all freshwater go to produce food that we never eat.
Fight Hunger in our Community:
Since the pandemic, the food-insecurity rate has more than doubled nationally and 33% in our community are faced with hunger. Thus, we set out to recover surplus food from our school and divert it to help those in our community with food insecurity. We began planning a scalable and efficient system to work with campus administrators and local community partners. Each week, we donate food to a local opportunity center who provides supportive services for homeless families and single adults. Staff and residents at the center have been wholeheartedly appreciative, and the food has immediately been put into good use.
We aim for a green future by conserving the water and energy used in producing otherwise wasted food while also providing nutritious meals for the community's most vulnerable members. We hope you will join our movement!
Oscar Anderson and Kai Mirchandani
Co-founders, People Plates Planet