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Program Spotlight: Extra Helpings

Program Spotlight: Extra Helpings

31-percent-food-waste“In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. Retail-level losses represented 10 percent (43 billion pounds) and consumer-level losses 21 percent (90 billion pounds) of the available food supply.” –USDA, 2014

Everyone knows that food waste is a huge problem. But did you know that American households toss out 150,000 tons of food each day and that people who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to be the most wasteful?

Restaurants and grocery stores also waste tremendous quantities of food, especially fresh produce. The environmental impact of food waste is staggering when you factor all the land, energy and pesticide that goes into the production and transportation of food to the land, energy and dangerous greenhouse (methane) gases associated with its disposal.

However, the Food Bank is focused on the human cost of food waste. In Los Angeles County alone, tens of thousands of our neighbors go to bed hungry every night at the precise time our landfills are being crammed to the breaking point with nutritious, healthy food. We saw this going on in our own communities, so, 20 years ago, the Food Bank created a program called Extra Helpings to redirect good, nutritious and healthy food away from landfills and into the stomachs of hungry children, families and older adults.

“When our organization committed to zero hunger and zero waste, we knew we needed help. Our food rescue partners at LA Regional Food Bank have done an amazing job helping us on this journey.  A decentralized network of LOCAL organizations picking up from our store locations MORE OFTEN was exactly the assistance we needed. Now, our associates can rescue more food, due to increased pickups, and they know that the food they rescue will promptly go to the communities they serve. -Amindra Wijay, Food Safety Manager, Ralphs Grocery Company

Last year, thanks to our generous supporters,  Extra Helpings ensured that more than 20 million pounds of food were redirected from landfills to stomachs by enabling 175 of our partner agencies to collect nutritious, perishable and prepared food directly from grocery stores and other local sources in their neighborhoods. Those 20 million pounds of food was enough to prepare 13.3 million meals!

On so many levels, Extra Helpings is a program that you should be proud to support:

  • It gets healthy food that would otherwise be wasted to our neighbors in need.
  • It allows our partner agencies to pick up food directly from grocery stores and others in their neighborhood. This means that the food does not have to come
    to the Food Bank’s central warehouse for storage and redistribution, especially important for fresh produce that has already been at the retail level.
  • The direct link we establish between partner agencies and local food retailers
    also means that we can free up more of our limited warehouse and transportation resources for other pressing needs.
  • Because we prevent tens of millions of pounds of food from being wasted, we keep it out of our landfills and sewage systems, benefiting the environment.
The Food Bank’s Extra Helpings Program connects charitable agencies to local food donors to fight hunger and prevent food waste in LA County.

“Extra Helpings has completely revolutionized how we help the hungry in our community. Few things are more tragic than good, healthy food going from my local grocery store or restaurant to a landfill rather than going to feed a hungry family. Because of LA Food Bank and Extra Helpings, we stop some of this food waste from happening. It’s easy. It’s quick. We get fresh fruit and vegetables that our clients need. I love it.  I just love it!” –Francis Gilick, Operations Manager, Cory’s Kitchen

Extra Helpings is the kind of innovative program that we need to end hunger in Los Angeles. It is the kind of innovative program that your tax-deductible donation supports. More than 2 million individuals in our county live in households classified as food insecure. Twenty-five percent of all the children in LA County live in these households. And, in most of these households, at least one adult has a full-time job. I am sure that you will agree that together we must do more to end hunger in Los Angeles County, including growing great programs like Extra Helpings.

Help us fight food waste while providing meals for the most vulnerable in our community by making a tax-deductible gift today.


*Post edited July 15, 2019.

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