A wonderful journey with the Farm2School event!

The Farm2School is one of the premier programs of Outside2Inside in reducing food waste. In this program, a low cost Wonky Produce Farmer’s Market is setup at local low income schools by recovering the “cosmetically-challenged” fruit & veggies—food that is perfectly good, but not aesthetically suitable for retail. The school students are involved & equipped with knowledge about food waste, thereby enabling them to be advocates of food waste reduction and to run the farmer’s market. The goal of this program is to recover wonky produce and to create awareness about food waste among the local community.

On July 2018, the Farm2School program won the grant award from Intel Corporation for conducting one such event by the end of 2018. That was a significant achievement in itself but we cannot just stop there. We had to do an amazing event to justify the award. We didn’t even had the school available at the time of award. But at the time of writing this post, we have successfully completed the 2nd Farm2school event and it was a great success.

How did we do it?

After we got the funding from Intel Corporation, the first task was to reach out to local schools in Santa Clara County. We went about the task by visiting the schools in bay area and pitching about the program to them. The Ponderosa Elementary School in Sunnyvale bought into the idea and agreed to participate in the program. The Ponderosa Elementary School is a public school and is part of the Santa Clara Unified School District. The school has ~570 students with ~30% of the students & families in a low income environment.

We finalized to do the Farm2School event on Dec 19, 2018 between 1.15pm – 3.15pm. But to pull this off successfully, there were 2 months of preparation work and 4 other major sessions we had to do before the event. Once date was finalized, we advertised the event through flyers, social media posts, and email notification within the school community, family and friends. Then we started with the 4 major sessions.

Farm2School Information Session

A few weeks before the event on Nov 30, 2018, we went to the Ponderosa Elementary school and did an Information Session for the students. This session was to introduce the concept of Food Waste, Wonky Produce and to encourage the students to volunteer for the Farm2School – Wonky Produce Farmer’s Market event. This is the program’s first step in enabling the students to be advocates of food waste awareness. So we need to make the best impression on the kids. We made it very kids friendly with some games, trivia questions about food waste and some sample wonky produce for each of the kids to take home. The Students were very excited to know about wonky produce and many of them signed up to volunteer for the event.

Outside2Inside – Farm2School Information Session with the Ponderosa School Students

Farm2School Student Volunteer Training Session

We worked with the school to get the final list of student volunteers and arranged for a training session with them.  There were totally 15 students who signed up as volunteers. We had roles & responsibilities defined for the student volunteers to run the farmer’s market. There were roles like Greeter, Food Waste Stats Guide, Stamper, Finger Counter, Survey Guide etc. But the Stamper and Finger Counter were the favorite among the kids.  We explained the roles and identified the students for each role. All the student volunteers were also given an Outside2Inside T-shirt.

Farm2School Adult Volunteer Identification & Orientation

Any parent would agree that managing 15 inquisitive kids is itself a difficult task. And running an event with the kids is impossible without adult supervision and guidance. This is where the volunteers from Intel helped us make it smooth and seamless. There was great interest among the Intel folks about this volunteer event and we got 13 volunteers signing up for this event. We had a volunteer orientation session with Intel volunteers and explained the roles & responsibilities required for the event.  The roles were classified into 3 categories Pre Event Setup, Farmer’s market event, Post event cleanup. The main responsibility for most of them was to manage and guide the kids 🙂

Farm2School – Wonky Produce Sorting & Recovery Event

The Wonky produce are fruits and veggies that are odd shaped, irregular sized, having minor scars or discolored due to heat but perfectly good & nutritious as any other produce we buy in the market. Just because they are wonky, there is no demand and farms end up trashing them. Outside2Inside has partnered with many local farms and produce warehouses to recover such wonky produce from them. In this event, we went to a produce warehouse in San Francisco and recovered ~300lbs of produce on Dec 17, 2018.

Wonky Persimmon – If not for us, this would have been in trash just because it is odd shaped!

Outside2Inside & Intel Volunteers recovering Wonky Produce.

Farm2School – Wonky Produce Farmer’s Market Event

With the help of Schools, farms and volunteers we were prepared for the event on Dec 19. 2018. But there was some anxiety before the event. The volunteers came by 12noon to the Outside2Inside office and after a short briefing we all got into the action. We started packing the wonky produce and other things like canopy, produce baskets, banners etc into the car and reached the school by 12.30pm. The volunteers were super enthusiastic and had the Wonky Produce Farmer’s market being setup within 30mins by 1pm.  The adult volunteers took responsibility of the kids they manage and formed a great partnership. At 1.15pm, we opened the Wonky Produce Farmer’s market to the people and the crowd kept pouring in making the event a great success.

Through this Farm2School – Wonky Produce Farmers Market, we achieved the following:

  • Recovered ~600lbs of wonky produce from getting wasted.
  • Indirectly, this helped prevent ~225lbs of Green House Gas emissions and saved ~47K gallons of water from being wasted.
  • Donated the produce to ~150 students and their families.
  • Raised awareness about reducing food waste to ~600 people.
  • Engaged 15 students as volunteers in bringing awareness about food waste. The student volunteers learnt food waste reduction advocacy, leadership skills, artful communication & public presentation skills and community engagement.
  • From our feedback survey, 100% of the participants liked the fruits and veggies provided in the Farm2School program and would like to visit such future events from Outside2Inside.

Farm2School – Wonky Produce Farmer’s Market with volunteers from Outside2Inside, Intel and Ponderosa School

These amazing achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of our partners, donors and importantly the volunteers. We thank Ponderosa School for participating in the event, Intel Corporation for funding this event and the volunteers who gave their valuable time in making this event a big success. We wish to have more such partnerships with Intel and Ponderosa School in future.

– Sriram Natarajan, Director of Food Recovery, O2I.





Food waste to Animal Feed – A Berkeley Student Research

With staggering amounts of food waste in America entering landfills, new methods for recycling this food waste are continually arising and developing. The process of recycling food waste into use for animal feed is one with little research or real world implementations, but has promising potential as a main diversion source of food waste. While there is much more to be discovered and explored in this process of conversion, some success stories do stand as an example on how to effectively transform the food scraps from grocery stores, restaurants, and households to the nutritious animal feed on farms. As members of FEED, a food equity consulting club at Berkeley, we took a look a these programs in the Bay Area and around the country to examine what tactics should be used as a model for similar future programs.

Local efforts to convert this food waste to animal feed consist of mostly small, informal, and intermittent transitions. We were able to contact small bay area animal farms such as Leland St. Farms, to examine how they are accepting recycled scraps. This small scale-pig farm sources 90% of their pig feed from a local produce market called Andy’s, collected in a large bin and transported to the farm via tractor. Due to the low effort required to collecting this otherwise wasted food, the farmers reported that their pigs are extremely healthy and it also reduced their grain purchases. Devil’s Gulch Ranch, a similarly small pig farm in Marin, receives unused food from Marin Food Bank, grain from Almanac Brewery and Magnolia Brewery, and cheese from Marin Cheese Farm. All donations are left in large bins at these locations and workers drive trucks to pick them up about every other week. The farmers taking advantage of freely available recyclable food waste boast its benefits of lower costs and even better animal health. However, due to a lack of existing organization, they have only been able to achieve this through self-initiative and funding for sourcing and retrieving this food.

In looking for more established and formal food waste recycling methods, we found FoodShift. This Alameda sourced organization began a program to pick up food waste from a partnered grocery store Andronico’s and delivers to St Vincent de Paul’s to feed the hungry. Food Shift reported that “In the first three months of the program, over 44,000 lbs of food was collected, including melons, apples, oranges, lettuce, granola bars and more. Andronico’s determined that the quantity of waste in their dumpsters had declined so dramatically that the store could reduce their number of garbage and compost pick ups to three days per week, which can save them almost $27,000 each year”. While this food was not take to farms, the success of Food Shift is a strong representation of the sustainability and cost efficiency of programs that divert food waste from grocery stores.

We then looked at another food waste success, Rutgers University, to see how the school converts its own cafeteria’s food waste into animal feed. Located in New Jersey, Rutgers University has partnered its dining halls with a local farm called Pinter Farms. After each meal, Rutgers staff takes the scraps from the food into a trough in the kitchen. This trough moves both this food and also used napkins into a pulper which grinds all of the waste together and removes the excess water from the mix. This process reduces the volume of the waste, which is then taken to barrels to be taken to Pinter. Pinter Farms is closeby, less than 15 miles away from the university, and this process of recycling the university’s food waste and using it as animal feed at Rutgers has been going on for over 50 years. Every day, representatives from this farm come to Rutgers’ campus and collect around one ton of food scraps from the university’s four dining halls, feeding it to the farm’s hogs and cattle. This cuts the price of sending these food scraps to the landfill by more than one half, so not only does less food get wasted, but the university also saves a significant amount of money through this partnership.

We found all of this research to be quite useful in helping Outside2Inside form a solid plan for the conversion of food waste to animal feed. The bottom line is that there are indeed ways that we can recycle the food that we eat rather than letting it waste away, and established organizations are already implementing programs to do so. It is up to us to spread this information and start up more and more of these programs to continue to reduce food waste in an effective and efficient way by feeding it to farm animals.

– Ava and Maddie

UC Berkeley – FEED Consultants

Food Waste Conversion to Animal Feed – A Berkeley students persepctive

As a freshman studying business and music, I wasn’t sure exactly sure what to expect when I began my four years at Berkeley. Everything changed when I joined several different communities on campus: the jazz band, CAL Dragon Boat, and FEED. FEED, an undergraduate consulting club that promotes food justice and sustainability, assigned me to a project team that would be working with Outside2Inside. Our goal was to research and implement the conversion of food waste into animal feed. The first few months our work was almost entirely composed of research. Specifically, we looked into the most common farm animals and their diets, researched the legalities behind food waste, and explored the various processes that can be used to convert food waste into animal feed. While the latter topic was by far the most complex, it was also one of the most interesting subjects to research.

During our research, we discovered that treatment methods for converting food waste into animal feed can be grouped into three main categories: wet-based, dry-based, and ensiliing/fermentation. After exploring each of these categories, we came to the conclusion that dehydration and ensiling processes are the best methods for converting produce waste into animal feed because they can be used on a wide range of produce, do not lead to significant nutrient loss, preserve perishable product for long-term storage, and are low-cost options that can be performed on a smaller scale. We also found that these options are especially suitable for apples, bananas, grapes, tomatoes, and brewers grain.

However, the conversion of animal feed into food waste was especially fascinating to me because there was no clear-but best method. Each process has its pros and cons, some creating waste of their own such as plastic or wooden bales and other releasing toxic gases. For example dehydration was an effective and resourceful conversion method but it lacked the ability to convert large amounts of food waste and only accepted certain types of waste (i.e. no bones of avocado pits). On the other hand, ensiling could convert large amounts of grass crops but produced toxic gasses. Unlike dehydration whiantach could be performed overnight, ensiling has the potential to take weeks to become edible. This trade-off was fascinating in the sense that it forces each company to consider their own output of waste and potential to purchase conversion equipment.

While gaining a comprehensive understanding of these converters required time and thorough research, we had the opportunity to take on the role of consultants as we considered the advantages and disadvantages of each method and worked towards formulating suggestions grounded in accurate information.

– Collin and Haley

UC Berkeley – FEED Consultants