As a full-time Nutrition and Dietetics student and intern at Food Finders, nutrition and reducing hunger and food waste are an important part of my life. I learned in my junior year of school at California State, Long Beach how many people in the United States go to bed hungry every night, so many of them children, and my heart broke. I knew then that my passion for nutrition and eating for wellness was not all I was passionate about.
I realized that in addition to my love of nutrition, my knack for meal planning and shopping on a limited budget was something that could play a big part in helping people to reduce food waste. The question for me was how could I combine these two skills and make a bigger impact?
Food Waste is a Problem
Food waste is a huge problem in the United States with the vast majority of waste occurring in the home. Poor planning and expiration dates on the food we purchase are large contributors. Many would rather toss food they aren’t sure about, which affects the environment and wastes billions of gallons of water each and every month.
Food Finders is an amazing solution to the food waste problem. They have a mission to “eliminate hunger and food waste” through the rescue of food in Southern California, and then they repurpose that food through a network of local community partners. I especially like the final part of their mission: “…while improving nutrition in food insecure communities.”
That is why I am an intern and a Nutrition Talks Educator with them. I have seen some amazing things while working here and for me, the most impressive is that last year, in 2021 they rescued 15,917,982 pounds of food!
Food that became over 13 million meals.
Resources and Education
We are working hard to provide education and resources that explain not only how to properly store food but how to interpret the various expiration dates we see on food such as “use by”, ‘sell by” etc.
The FoodKeepers application supported by the USDA is a great resource to help people sort through the confusing world of labels and dates. It can help you not only interpret the varying expiration date labels but can also explain the best storage methods for various foods to reduce waste.
Meal planning is one of the biggest ways that all of us can stop food waste. Who hasn’t gone to the grocery store hungry and bought more than they needed?
When you plan your meals, or even just your shopping, it reduces food waste. And don’t forget that planning ahead is also easy on your wallet–a big plus! Planning your meals for the week and then creating your shopping list based on your meals can cut food waste by 15% or more. Imagine if we all did that?!
Tip For Cutting Food Waste
Shop the grocery store weekly ads. With the cost of food up by 25% or more, finding proteins that are on sale that week is where I start my meal planning.
DO NOT go to the store hungry. Going grocery shopping hungry guarantees I will buy some overpriced and over-processed snacks that I promptly eat on the way home. This not only takes me out of budget but is unhealthy.
I stick to your list that coordinates with the meals you want to make for the week.
Prepare your fruits and veggies for the week–so they don’t go bad. If I have salads planned I pre-cut and wash my lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, and cucumbers. I also wash and cut up any melons or fruit for the week as well. Doing this makes busy weeks easier and allows for a nutritious snack of fruit that is easy to grab.
Nutrition Talks Program
This is all information I use when in a Nutrition Talk event with one of our partner agencies. I do a basic overview of nutrition and its importance with interactive tools that keep people engaged in what they are learning. One example is my Nutrition Facts Label workshop which starts with a scavenger hunt looking for a pantry item with a nutrition facts label and ties up with a Q & A on what was learned. This coming week’s talk will also have Isabel Gallegos, my supervisor and co-creator of the Nutrition Talks Program. We will be looking in the partner agencies’ refrigerators and pantries to create a meal with what they have deemed as surplus foods that they have indicated typically go to waste. It is an eye-opening event!
This is just one more of what Food Finders does to reduce hunger and food waste. It isn’t enough that we are getting food into the hands of those who are in need but also to educate them on the many nutrient-dense meals that can be created while reducing waste.
Kelly Alarcon, a Student at California State University, Long Beach with a concentration in Nutrition and Dietetics has a passion for showing others the path to wellness through nutrition while reducing hunger and food waste. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-alarcon-194313220/
Have you ever wondered what healthy eating looks like for the 38 million Americans currently facing food insecurity?
In response to SB1383, food recovery and donation programs are in full swing, in an effort to reduce organic waste. As more and more grocery stores, schools, and other food generators scramble to establish their food donation programs, nonprofits gather to secure more resources to feed their communities. Food Finders is addressing food scarcity through programs that go beyond providing a meal for a moment or a day. Through our Nutrition Talks program, we are working directly with food insecure individuals to provide nutritional education and resources to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent further organic waste.
More Than Reducing Hunger
Our Nutrition Talks Program, co-created and led by our Nutrition Education intern, Kelly Alarcon is available to any one of our nonprofit partners, free of cost. Kelly is in her third year at Cal State University Long Beach, studying Nutrition & Dietetics. Kelly has been leading Nutrition Talks since the start of 2022 and agrees that “securing food is crucial but the need does not end there.” Together, Kelly and I have presented our educational program to several nonprofit partners ranging from sober living residentials to affordable housing organizations. It is evident that more can and should be done in the fight to reduce hunger.
Providing individuals who experience food scarcity with tools to better understand their health and eating habits, we have been able to better assess the impact rescued food has on nutrition, lifestyle, and sustainability practices. In addition to education, we offer tips for healthy eating on a budget and have even added a cooking demo component that works to put those healthy habits into practice.
Although our talks aim to highlight the benefits of choosing fruit and vegetables over chips and cookies, many emergency relief boxes and grocery store donations do not offer the kind of fresh and nutritionally dense foods that would be optimal for making better choices. For this reason, our presentations are designed to give our partners and their residents the opportunity to bring their questions and concerns about food donation quality and recovery practices into an open forum for discussion.
Q & As
During one of our Q&As, we received inspiring feedback from a resident of our nonprofit partner, Recovery Community Cares who implored food generators donating to please, “give from your hearts and give a donation of quality and dignity.” We would like to thank our partners who have already donated with this message in mind. Whether it be food, resources, your time, or financial contribution, every bit counts towards reducing hunger and environmental waste. To every partner of ours who has welcomed our Nutrition Talks into their programming, we want to thank you for providing more for your clients.
The Nutrition Talks Program is something that we are very proud of at Food Finders. Part of our mission is to improve nutrition in food insecure communities and this program is one way that we can provide more than just a meal.
For more information on how to become a donor, volunteer, or funder, please visit the following links:
To join our Share Table, please contact our Fund Development Director, Lisa Hoffmaster (562) 283-1400 (Ext. 103)
If you are a Non-profit operating in Southern California and would like to host a Nutritional Talk you must be a registered nonprofit and partner with Food Finders, Inc. For more information please contact Isabel Gallegos, at (562) 283-1400 Ext. 111
Isabel Gallegos, Partner Agency Manager and has worked in the community to help others gain access to rights and tools to reach their highest potential. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Several studies show that nutrition can directly affect the mental capacity of school-aged children. For example, iron deficiency, even in early stages, can negatively impact cognition. Good Nutrition helps students show up at school prepared to learn–and learning is the foundation of how children can grow into healthy and productive adults. Because improvements in nutrition help to make students healthier, they are more likely to have fewer absences and attend class more frequently. When children are not given nutritious meals, studies show that malnutrition leads to behavior problems in the classroom.
Hunger is not just something we must look at as a social issue. It is an economic one. If we know that children can do better in school when fed nutritious food, perhaps we can see the benefit of these same children growing up to lift themselves up and out of poverty to financial independence. Food is more than just hunger, it is a vehicle to elevate entire communities.
Turning A Bag of Food Into A Meal
Kelly Alarcon, a Cal State Long Beach Nutrition student who interns at Food Finders loves to talk about the importance of having nutritious meals. She helps the Partner Agency Coordinators to receive food from our Food donors and also helps with pack and sorts for the Food 4 Kids program. The above photo was taken from one bag that was being packed up so that it could be delivered to one of the 15 Title 1 Schools in Long Beach.
Kelly asked if she could take a picture and use her nutrition skills to craft some recipes that could help families extend the meals while also providing a nutritious option. Her studies paid off!
Here is the first bag of recipes we would like to share:
Contents and Nutrition
Tuna 5.4 oz. = 2 packs 140 calories, 17g protein, 0.5g fat, 0 carbs Instant oatmeal = 2 packs 320 calories; 8 g protein, 4g fat, 66g carbs Kool Aid Juice Jammer = 1 90 calories, 0 protein, 0 fat, 24 carbs Canned corn, whole kernel = 2 120 calories; 2g protein, 2g fat, 26g carbs Black beans = 2 cans 350 calories; 24.5 g protein, 0 fat, 63 carbs Granola bar = 1 140 Calories; 3g protein, 4 g fat, 25 carbs Vegetable soup = 1 can 130 calories; 4g protein, 2.5 g fat, 22g carbs Diced tomatoes = 1 can 88 calories; 3.5 g protein, 0g fat, 17.5 g of carbs Canned fruit = 2 cans 230 calories; 0g protein, 0g fat, 59g Boxed mac n cheese = 1 box 875 Calories; 32.5g Fat, 25g protein, 118g carbs
Weekend Meals Recipes
Meal #1: Cheesy Tuna Casserole
Serves 2-3 people
Ingredients To Use: 1- Box mac n cheese 1 – Pack of tuna drained 1 – Can of corn drained
Prepare boxed mac n cheese as directed, setting aside ¼ of the noodles for another recipe, and feel free to use any milk, nut milk or water.
Mix all ingredients and serve.
Meal #2: Black Bean, Tomato and Corn Salad
Ingredients To Use: 1 – Cans of black beans drained 1 – Can of diced tomatoes drained 1 – Can of corn drained
Take all rinsed ingredients and toss in a bowl.
Season as desired
Serve hot or cold
Meal #3: Tuna and Noodle Soup with a Side of Fruit
Ingredients to Use: 1 – Cans of vegetable soup ½ Cup of water 1 – Pack of Tuna Drained 1-Can of fruit Remainder of noodles from boxed Mac n Cheese
Place all ingredients in a pot on the stove mixing and heating
Enjoy with side of fruit from the can
Meal # 4: Oatmeal with Fruit
Ingredients to Use:
2- Packs of Instant Oatmeal
1-can of fruit drained
Prepare instant oatmeal according to package directions
Cut fruit into bite size pieces and top oatmeal with it or eat as a side.
We look forward to more recipes from Kelly. If you do make any of these, please share your photos of the preparation and completed meal! Email us at email@example.com
Helping Food 4 Kids
Prior to COVID, the Food 4 Kids Program was delivering 385 bags of food every week to 15 Title 1 Long Beach Elementary Schools. In many cases, these bags of food provided families with their only weekend food option. Support from donors helped us to serve over 10,780 meals per week to families.
Long Beach Unified School District reached out to Food Finders in January with a request to restart the program and add 12 High School Student Wellness Centers to the original Title 1 Schools. Supporting this program would mean that together we can serve 21,560 meals per week by delivering over 770 bags of food to families in Long Beach. It is a good start to elevating so many families!
To Help Support the Food 4 Kids Program click here
If you would like to make an impact on reducing food waste and hunger help us grow our food rescue operations: Donate
Your support of Food Finders provides more than just food- it provides time spent cooking together, reconnecting with friends or family, creating a long-lasting memory, tradition and much more. Make a donation this December and provide someone in need with #MoreThanJustFood.