Riverside has been growing with the anticipation of a brighter economic future. With the new Administration taking office on January 20, we are holding out hope for the long-awaited growth spurt that has been so allusive in the past decade. That said, there’s no denying Riverside has been fortunate in many ways, we also know that good fortune continues only when shared. Our philosophy is; if there’s more for us, then there’s more to give.
Supermarket Food Surpluses
Recently the topic of excess food surpluses has come up for discussion at our Town Hall meetings. It seems it’s a choice between contracting a towing service every week to haul away the excess amount of food that supermarkets won’t sell after a certain date, or finding a way to avoid the waste. Several ideas were presented on how to bridge the gap between the surplus and the hungry.
The way our board members and the community saw the situation was simple; if there are folks going hungry, yet surplus food going to the city landfill, we needed to find a solution. Unanimously, our board members agreed that the answer is to help distribute the existing surplus.
Due to federal and state regulations, not all the local supermarkets could readily participate. However, the amount of waste is shameful when there are still so many in need, so lobbying local lawmakers to cooperate in our efforts was not as difficult as first imagined. Vowing to work within the State’s guidelines, a program was soon put in place.
Following a Finnish prototype, pop-up food stands began offering fruits and vegetables that could not be sold in the regular produce department of Von’s. The food is taken off the big chain store’s shelves due to an imposed sell date.
Much of what is to be fodder for the landfill is offered for free or minimally priced to the less fortunate who shop at the pop-ups.
Von’s management deserves big kudos for their cooperation, but for now due to legalities, had to sign off on any responsibility for giving the food away. In the near future, we are hoping to add to their bottom line by regulating their contributions as charitable and thereby a tax write-off. Everyone wins.
Despite the bureaucratic snares, the determination of the community is paying off. The reduction of food waste along with addressing poverty and hunger has brought public awareness, but also a feeling of pride and equality to everyone who partakes in the giving and receiving.
Community gardening is also a way to get the food banks full. The fertile vegetable plots not only give neighbors a chance to get to know each other and bond over the simplest of joys- like harvesting tomatoes, but it gives us all a vehicle to share more of who we are through giving.
A harvest is the end result of working hand- in-hand with like-minded people. It makes excellent use of space that may otherwise be left open and unused. Gardening naturally lends itself to education. We learn what is behind the produce department of the local Vons Supermarket. It teaches children from a young age to appreciate the natural food sources that are not products of a manufacturing plant. We incorporate wholesome, organic farming techniques which mean sustainable land and healthy benefits.
While we have suffered drought and now with a plethora of rainy days, we are finding a balance. Our actions are getting attention from other municipalities who deal with pockets of poverty in their communities.
By developing food surplus programs and community gardening Riverside is establishing a stronger sense of community than ever before. Yes, 2017 looks like a promising new year for giving and receiving. Please contact the Riverside Chronicle or the Riverside Chamber of Commerce to learn more about both of these projects.