Ocean Market Store Manager Miguel Sanchez

Ocean Market Store Manager Miguel Sanchez sorts an area dedicated for food going to an edible food program for those in need. 

new state law led to the city of Pacifica entering into a memorandum of understanding with the county’s Office of Sustainability to run a food recovery program to help local hungry.

In September 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB1383 establishing methane emissions regulation targets in a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, said Lisa Petersen, director of Public Works for Pacifica. The state’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, also known as CalRecycle, established regulations to require jurisdictions to establish “edible food recovery” programs and strengthen their food recovery networks, Petersen said. The regulations go into effect Jan 1, 2022.

The San Mateo County Office of Sustainability developed a countywide program, Petersen said. City Council agreed to enter into the county program in an MOU at its Oct. 11 meeting.

The program establishes targets to achieve reductions in the level of statewide disposal of organic waste by 75 percent by 2025, Petersen said. The law grants CalRecycle regulatory authority to achieve the organic waste disposal reduction targets and establishes an additional target — no less than 20 percent of currently disposed edible food is to be recovered for human consumption by 2025, Petersen said. 

“Currently, the county of San Mateo is funding the edible food recovery program expansion for Pacifica Resource Center,” wrote Petersen in an email to the Tribune. “When that funding goes away, another method of funding the edible food recovery program would need to be developed.”

Future program funding could come from a charge developed to food generators, she said. Currently, they have to pay Recology to haul away the edible food they are throwing away, so that fee could be transferred to Pacifica Resource Center to cover their costs for the edible food recovery, according to Petersen.

So far, the county hasn’t determined when its funding would end.

The county edible food recovery program is a hybrid of two successful models, an expansion of the grocery rescue work that has been conducted by Pacifica Resource Center and Second Harvest Food Bank for many years, and ongoing commercial rubbish, recycling and composting collection service, Petersen said.

The MOU requires Pacifica to adopt an edible food recovery program and establish food definitions, requirements for Tier 1 and Tier 2 ebible food generators, and requirements for food recovery organizations and food recovery services, Petersen said.

Tier 1 refers to food generators that will participate starting on Jan. 1 and include grocery stores and food wholesalers, said Petersen. Tier 2 is those that will participate starting in 2024 and includes large restaurants, hotels and institutions, Petersen said.

It also requires the city to tell the county of any “large events” attended by more than 2,000 occurring in Pacifica. The only large event in Pacifica that would qualify is the annual Fog Fest, said Petersen. 

The SB1383 regulations require cities to conduct education and outreach on organics recycling, said Petersen.

Jack Johnson from the county Office of Sustainability answered questions at the meeting. Kimberly Williams asked if this will be compatible with the prohibition of single-use plastics in Pacifica’s disposable food ware ordinance. “Yes,” Johnson said. “A lot of what we have adopted is compatible with that.”

Councilmember Mike O’Neill asked how it would work.

“Pacifica Resource Center offers this as a service,” Johnson said. “Recology is charging these grocery stores a fee for removal. The stores will now be charged a fee to do the edible food recovery. It’s a diversion. People are always hungry.

“This is new to everybody,” said Petersen.


Jane Northrop has covered Pacifica for the Pacifica Tribune since 1996. She has won first place John Swett Awards from the California Teachers Association for her coverage of education.

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