OC organization explores solar power technology to cut down on food waste, address food insecurity

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- Food waste is a global problem, but could freezing food with solar power be the answer to cutting the waste?

No one wants food to go to waste. There are organizations collecting donated food that would soon spoil, and delivering it to non-profits trying to address food insecurity.

Mike Learakos is the Executive Director of Abound Food Care and says in spite of those efforts, food still ends up in the landfill, and as it decomposes, contributes to global warming.

Working with other non-profit organizations, and with $2 million dollars provided by Orange County for an emergency meal program, Abound Food Care has developed a logistics solution, helped in part by a solar-powered freezer at Anaheim High School.

"We bring food in, and we rotate inventory," Learakos explained. "We use these bulkheads to keep the area that we're actually using at the time refrigerated. And these are removable, they come in and out."

The portable freezer is a prototype with several others being built for use in Orange County. It provides the opportunity to preserve meals for use when needed in areas known as food deserts, and in the event of a natural disaster, the food would also be available to anyone in need.

"We hold these meals in a frozen state, and then in a case of an emergency or disaster, we now have food that's nutritious, and ready to serve in the community," Learakos said.

In repurposed kitchens across the county like the one at Monkey Business Café in Fullerton, each course is individually packaged and vacuum-sealed before storage. Its two kitchens working at once, with young people building a resume.

"Abound Food Care was really an answer to prayer through COVID because we didn't have as much employment for our kids when the café was shut down," said Rebecka Forrester with the board of directors for Heart Community Homes.

While customers enjoy the Monkey Business Café's daily menu, the donated food is prepared and packaged to be used over eight to 10 months, instead of being thrown out. The inventory is replenished with meals being forwarded to neighborhoods that need it at that moment, making sure nothing goes to waste.

"Wherever there's food, there's the ability to reverse-engineer the process, and get edible food to where it can be used by people who are suffering from food insecurity," said Learakos. "Anywhere in the world this works, it's just a matter of connecting the dots with logistics, and providing enough cold storage that is sustainable."

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