Special to the Patriot-Bridge
Boston City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo (District 5) and Gabriela Coletta (District 1) filed an ordinance for the city to formally establish an Office of Food Justice and a Food Recovery Program to address food insecurity and reduce waste.
The ordinance codifies the Office of Food Justice, formerly known as the Office of Food Access, and requires food generators to donate all edible food that they would otherwise throw away.
The ordinance will be introduced at Wednesday’s Council meeting.
“Food insecurity has terrible debilitating effects on people and communities. It is entirely preventable, and this program should play a major role in ensuring no one in Boston suffers from food insecurity while also reducing unnecessary waste and its harmful environmental impacts,” Arroyo said.
The ordinance would also make Boston the first municipality in the country to have its own donation requirement for excess edible food that would otherwise be thrown away. Similar programs exist in France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, California, and New York. Such a program would serve two primary purposes: increasing food security for Boston residents, reducing the waste of excess edible food, and reducing the resulting environmental harms of that waste.
The donation requirement, as described in the ordinance under the Food Recovery Program, would benefit nonprofit organizations already working in the food justice space and would be punishable by fines for those who fail to comply.
Food generators in compliance would establish agreements with local nonprofits. Those nonprofits would be required to submit annual reporting to the city on the amount of edible food donated through these agreements per year.
The ordinance would apply to over 500 entities in Boston that generate food waste, including supermarkets, wholesale food vendors, large restaurants, hotels, hospitals, colleges and universities. Smaller commercial edible food vendors would be mandated to donate excess food but would be given an extra year to adjust to the requirements of the ordinance.
The Office of Food Justice and the Inspectional Services Department would be responsible for educating those who the ordinance applies to and the nonprofits would provide all necessary information to the city to ensure the ordinance is being implemented.
Creation of this ordinance was greatly assisted by the research and efforts of students and staff at the Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) at Harvard Law School. Integral to their efforts was former Clinical Instructor, Molly Cohen.