Cambro Products

Waste Not OC Recovers Food to Support SoCal Non-Profit Food Pantries


Have you ever wondered what happens to the food that goes uneaten at foodservice operations?  Rather than allowing it to contribute to the 40 percent of US-produced food that ends up in landfills, Waste Not OC created a program to recover excess, edible food and redistribute it to non-profit food pantries. In Orange County, Calif. alone, there are more than 500 nonprofit pantries that feed hungry people.

“We don’t make food in our industry to just throw it away, we make food to feed people. We always hated the notion that we had to throw food away, but there were for many, many years fears of liability, concerns about grant protection,” said Mike Learakos, Executive Director of Waste Not OC.

Originated in 2012, Waste Not OC’s extremely detailed methods allow both foodservice operations and non-profit pantries to handle food safely. Volunteer food runners are equipped with Cambro Delivery GoBags® and infrared thermometers.

“When a volunteer goes to a restaurant, hotel, grocery store, school—anywhere there’s available food—they will take that Cambro [Delivery GoBag], they will check the temperature, they will log it using our software that we use. The tech platform allows us to track the time, temperature of that product that is picked up and the time and temperature of the product when it was dropped off,” said Learakos. “Of course, the Cambro product keeps that [food] product within that safe range. It keeps it out of the Danger Zone.”

By mitigating food safety concerns, Waste Not OC has amassed more than 700 donors in just Orange County. Last year, they recovered more than 17.5 million pounds of food. Oftentimes, food is recovered from order errors, food considered pre-consumer at banquet halls and food prepped at restaurants that have experienced a slow day.

Another large contributor for Waste Not OC is schools. Many schools in Orange County participate in food donation.

“We use the analogy, as an industry, whenever we advocate to our staff for throwing food away, it is the equivalent of a bank manager telling their tellers that it’s okay to throw the dirty 20’s and the worn out $20 bills away. That’s exactly what food is to us in the industry, it is cash,” said Learakos.

In addition to Cambro Delivery GoBags, Waste Not OC also uses Cambro GoBoxes to transport their recovered food.

“We would tend to use a disposable Styrofoam caddy just because they were easier to handle and not as heavy, but [the Cambro GoBox] is the best of both worlds. It’s durable, it lasts, it’s light enough to where staff can handle it without fear…and it holds the temperature. That’s what we’re really looking for, and what we’re doing is being able to hold that temperature as we transport it,” said Learakos.

Food waste recovery is not a passing fad. In California, legislation has already been passed to support decreased food waste. As more states start to follow and foodservice operations are educated on the benefits of food waste prevention, the more necessary food safe transportation tools will be.

“Cambro has always been a leader and this is just another example of how they’re leading. Millennials, a generation we don’t understand as operators, they love the notion of food recovery, they love the notion of waste reduction and now as they volunteer and they see that Cambro is the product we’re using, another generation has seen Cambro as an industry leader,” said Learakos.

Do you want to start reducing food waste in your operation, but not sure where to start? Contact your Cambro rep to find the best products to decrease food waste and keep money in your pocket.


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