An analysis of local government interventions for edible food recovery

This thesis explores public policies that have the potential to meet the 20% statewide edible food recovery mandates of SB 1383. This policy became law in 2016 as part of a broader effort to curb methane emissions, of which about a fifth is attributable to landfilled organic waste. While there have been significant successes at the city level across the nation, and while there are promising models at the county and regional level in California, a statewide edible food recovery mandate is unprecedented, and has the potential to throw local food distribution and waste hauling systems into chaos if not adequately designed and managed. The overall goal of this thesis is to identify policies that can enable local jurisdictions to meet their statutorily-required edible food recovery amounts with reasonable expenditures of money and effort. To make these determinations, I used Bardach’s (2012) analytical research method, the “Eightfold Path,” to develop a list of policy alternatives and criteria by which to assess them. The resulting analysis allowed me to plot alternatives along one axis of a table and criteria along the other, creating a “Criteria Alternatives Matrix,” or “CAM” for short. I analyzed four policy alternatives that the literature and my conversations with stakeholders in the waste management and food recovery fields recommended, and determined that one of the four policies have a relatively high likelihood of success according to the five criteria by which I evaluated each. I also determined that two other complementary alternatives could also be successful. The use of software to match donors and recovery organizations with on-the-spot transporters for time-sensitive donations was the top-ranked alternative, with (1) utilization of public health inspectors to promote recovery among regulated food distributors and (2) facilitation of planning and coordination between donors, recovery organizations, and transporters as equally-ranked complements. I recommended the implementation of donation-matching software as the strongest option to address the issue, but also indicated that some combination of the three could be particularly effective in facilitating edible food recovery in the near future.