live / 2021

FoodCycle - Feeding People, Nourishing Communities

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by FoodCycle

FoodCycle believes that there is no reason that edible food should be wasted while people are going hungry. The problem of hunger is not due to scarcity. For 15 years, FoodCycle’s community-based volunteers have recovered food that would have been thrown away by grocery stores, bakeries, farmer’s markets, and restaurants and delivered it to organizations serving the hungry. We use innovative technology to better recover and connect food with vulnerable populations in LA. Our organization works to ensure that people, not landfills, are fed.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • Antelope Valley
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

An estimated 40% of all food produced is wasted; this wasted food is thrown into landfills where it releases methane gas, which is known to be 20 times more harmful than CO2. Additionally, nearly 25% of California’s fresh water supply is used to produce wasted food. Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 8 Angelenos qualify as food insecure—that’s over a million people who don’t know when or where their next meal is coming from. The scale of the problem, already enormous, was compounded by the Covid19 pandemic. The food banks and food pantries that we support experienced dramatic increases in the amount of people they served. Furthermore, the issue of food insecurity disproportionately affects minorities and people of color. The lack of access to fresh produce has created “food deserts” in many areas of Los Angeles. By distributing excess food to ensure no food is wasted, we can reduce the impact on the environment as well as feed those who need it.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

In addition to our regular recovery and distribution of excess food, FoodCycle has used the latest in food rescue technology to create “food maps” of LA. We are able assess the capacity of an organization to donate food and we can also use the database to direct more food to areas we’ve identified as food deserts as well as create an efficient mapping system that allows us to efficiently route and distribute food into these zones. We’ve also expanded our outreach to businesses in order to secure additional donations to serve the areas we see experiencing an increased need. We believe that by collaborating with and supporting community-based nonprofits and sharing resources, we can best help expand access to food in neighborhoods experiencing food insecurity. The bulk of grant funds will be used to provide infrastructure to connect new donors to nonprofit partners. We will provide drivers and transportation to pick up donations and connect them with the distributions that we identify. When nonprofits have transportation capacity, we will first work to develop a successful partnership with donating businesses and then work with the nonprofits to smoothly transition over to them picking up directly from stores and other donors. The remainder of the grant funds will be used to identify new non-profit partners and conduct outreach and education to potential donors (that is, we will find more organizations who can either donate food, or use donated food to feed the hungry).

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

2,300,000
Direct impact
3,300,000
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

FoodCycle provides a way for hungry people to have better access to free, healthy food in their own communities. By the end of the grant, we will have expanded our services and created a comprehensive food map/database that connects excess food with hungry people. We will have demonstrated a leadership role by reducing food insecurity in LA, but will mitigate climate change through a reduction of food waste. Innovations afforded by this grant will result in less food insecurity, a cleaner environment, and an increased revenue for the businesses that are integrated into these efforts. Community-based organizations will be supported to better serve their neighbors, and will be provided with the important resources they need to help build resilient communities. People throughout Los Angeles will also have more opportunities to volunteer to help support their communities. We also hope during our database expansion to include food from backyard and community gardens.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

FoodCycle has the ability to track the impacts of food recovery in terms of people fed as well as track the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The use of technology, including a food recovery app, has allowed us to keep detailed records of these impacts and show that our existing program has resulted in 1,743,585 meals served in 2020, and 2,092,302 pounds of food waste diverted from landfills, we kept 2,176 metric tons of greenhouse gases from being released as a result of our program. By creating a collaborative network of existing resources and using technology in innovative ways, we were able to grow 1,250% in 2020. We have increased our network of collaborating nonprofits from 34 in 2019 to over 140 in 2020. We anticipate being able to continue to grow at a rapid pace with the support of this grant and due to the local and state new policies that will be implemented in 2021. By continuing to harness technology we can clearly demonstrate our successes.

Which of the live metrics will you impact?​

  • Access to healthy food
  • Food insecurity
  • Air quality

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT