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Agency Update - Fall 2022

Strengthening Partnerships in Food Recovery Efforts

Alameda Food Recovery Network

Over the past decade, StopWaste has cultivated strong relationships with food recovery organizations across Alameda County, engaging in conversations around tackling food insecurity, building a resilient and inclusive regional food system, and more recently, planning for the needs of these organizations during the rule-making process for SB 1383. In 2021, StopWaste rallied these stakeholders to formalize the Alameda County Food Recovery Network (ACFRN), which serves as a space for over 45 food recovery organizations, city staff, and other groups like housing agencies and faith-based groups to connect and share resources on how to facilitate the recovery of edible surplus food and redirect it to community members seeking food assistance. 

The ACFRN meets virtually on a monthly basis and addresses topics like best practices for weighing and tracking donations, edible food recovery capacity planning, volunteer needs, and written agreements with donors. In a recent meeting, stakeholders shared that they lacked the capacity to weigh recovered or rescued food, making it difficult to accurately keep track of total pounds of food recovered and streamline their operations. In response, StopWaste created a fund to provide scales to help track surplus food donations from commercial edible food generators. A total of 55 scales have since been purchased, enabling food recovery organizations to track recovered food and be prepared to comply with the SB 1383 recordkeeping mandate. 

The ACFRN welcomes all organizations taking part in food recovery efforts in Alameda County to participate. You can also explore local food recovery organizations in your area below.

Environmental Educator Training Engages Urban Farmers

SWEET Training

A new iteration of StopWaste’s long-running Environmental Educator Training (SWEET) kicked off on September 7 and will take place weekly through October 19. Now in its 7th year, SWEET is designed to enhance the skills of community leaders, environmentalists, and sustainability advocates within Alameda County to become educators themselves on priority issues like food waste prevention. This year, we’ve shifted the training to focus on compost science and soil health, inviting urban farms and adjacent food growers from across Alameda County to participate. The aim of this peer-to-peer experiential course is to support both on-site composting at farms and public education opportunities at compost hubs like the Alameda Compost Hub. Like other SWEET trainings, this course includes community building and hands-on learning and sharing among participants. It will be the first hybrid SWEET model – utilizing best practices from previous online and in-person trainings. 

RE:Source Guide Summer Campaign Success

Resource guide

StopWaste ran a targeted media advertising campaign from May 9-July 8, 2022, to promote the RE:Source guide and mobile app. RE:Source, released in 2020 to replace the tool, is a comprehensive online guide providing reuse, repair, recycle, and safe disposal information in Alameda County. The digital advertising campaign targeted a broad audience throughout the county and featured three different creative concepts in video, GIFs, and banner formats. The campaign resulted in over two million impressions, 6,000 clicks, 200,000 video views, and 1,000 searches. Another campaign is being planned for later this year, with new creative added, and a refined strategy based on the outcomes and lessons learned from this summer’s campaign. 

Preventing Food Waste, Empowering People

Just Fare profile

Just Fare is a mission-driven food service operator in Alameda County, a long-term participant in StopWaste’s Smart Kitchen Initiative, and most recent winner of StopWaste’s 2022 Excellence in Food Waste Prevention Award. In three years, Just Fare reduced food waste in their operations by 96 percent, preventing 4.5 tons of food from going to waste, and prepared over 400,000 meals to feed community members. Just Fare’s pivot to prioritize people and the planet has been the key to its success in overcoming challenges in the food industry.  

Employee Spotlight

Karen Kho

Karen Kho

Principal Program Manager

Karen Kho joined StopWaste’s green building program in 2003. Prior to that, she advocated for sustainable cities in the Bay Area, supported community development initiatives across the U.S., and served as a federal transportation policy analyst. She holds an undergraduate degree in Development Studies from UC Berkeley, and a master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning from MIT. 

What do you do at StopWaste? 

My title is principal program manager, but my role straddles both programs and administration. I oversee the Agency’s built environment projects and am the lead staff person coordinating our external fund-seeking, particularly for the Energy Council. Most recently I led the formation of a regional Construction Innovation Cluster that was selected as a finalist for the U.S. Economic Development Agency’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge. As part of the Agency’s leadership team, I’m involved in organizational strategy and development: thinking about how our long-term goals and vision are aligned with our internal budgeting, programming, decision making, and professional development. 

What is your favorite part of working here?  

I've always liked StopWaste because it feels like a hybrid between a nonprofit, a public agency, and a private entrepreneurial firm. I appreciate that we have the public service ethic of a government agency and a mission that is more like a nonprofit. I also like the fact that we can be nimble and innovative, similar to the private sector. There are always opportunities to take our work to the next level and we have the ability to incubate new ideas through a public service lens.  

How has the Agency changed over the years and what has stayed the same? 

Over the years our goal has evolved from a narrower focus on the waste stream in Alameda County to addressing issues more systemically. We’re not just focused on maximizing tons of waste diverted or kilowatts per hour saved. Our “multiple benefits” approach has shifted to incorporate the equity and community impacts of our work. We’re thinking more deeply about where the acupuncture points are so that we can be more systemic and strategic. For example, we’re connecting our environmental goals to local economic development strategies, so that we can support the growth of circular economic businesses. 

I'm excited about the place that the Agency is in right now – like everyone, we’ve done a lot of reflecting over the course of the pandemic. It caused a lot of disruption, but that disruption can be helpful for setting a new course. I think that we used it as an opportunity to take a fresh look at our programs and strategic direction. 

Do you have a life motto that you live by? 

The one that I’m trying to live by now is being the change that I want to see out in the world. There's so much that we can feel negative and depressed about when we look around and things that seem out of our control. It can be demoralizing working on environmental and social issues, but I always come back to a grounding question: How can I embody what I want to see every day in my work? That fuels me to keep on going. 

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

I like to be outdoors and go for hikes. I also enjoy cross country skiing in the winter when there's enough snow. And I like to travel. My family is scattered all over the world, and there’s always some reason to visit them. I find that traveling for longer periods or living overseas shakes up my assumptions about what’s possible. When you immerse yourself in a different culture, you experience different outlooks and worldviews. This helps in gaining a new perspective while also appreciating what you have.