As thousands were forced to join blocks-long food lines to feed their families during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, “food insecurity” became part of the lexicon across Queens.
On Tuesday, May 12, the City Council passed legislation authored by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to develop and implement a food waste prevention plan.
Every day, the DOE provides meals for more than one million children who attend public schools across the five boroughs. This is equal to hundreds of millions of food produced and consumed every year.
This year, the DOE worked to direct much of this food to those in the community in need, however, there was still a massive amount of food waste that was created, with an untold amount that was discarded without real tracing. Through the implementation of a real food waste prevention plan, the DOE can divert much of their waste from the landfill to food kitchens, compost or simply reduce waste in general.
Van Bramer’s legislation follows reports of the DOE wasting more than $800,000 in food warehoused by the city agency in June 2020.
“The Department of Education must confront food waste in order to create a more environmentally sustainable city,” Van Bramer said. “Food waste prevention plans will help cut the amount of excess food our schools and city sends to landfill, finding ways to instead donate, compost, and reduce surplus. These plans are a step towards more sustainable schools and a less wasteful New York.”
Just over a year ago, community activist and organizer Jonathan Forgash formed Queens Together, which provided food to thousands of families in need while helping restaurants stay in business by re-employing restaurant workers to pack produce and make deliveries.
“Queens Together strongly supports reducing food waste at the DOE and creating systems that will redirect unused meals into the hands of communities facing food and economic insecurity,” Forgash said. “This is a win-win for our neighbors, a more environmentally sustainable city and the NYC budget plan. We applaud this legislation.”
The bill requires the DOE to create a food waste prevention plan that will be submitted by the schools chancellor by Oct. 1.