6 Food Orgs Working to Fight Hunger and Build Community in Orange County

Orange County Food Access Coalition takes advantage of the county’s robust fruit harvest to   help meet food equity challenges. (photo courtesy Christina Hall/Orange County Food Access Coalition)

Orange County Food Access Coalition takes advantage of the county’s robust fruit harvest to help meet food equity challenges. (photo courtesy Christina Hall/Orange County Food Access Coalition)

Given its aura of affluence thanks to popular culture, it comes as a shock to many when they learn that Orange County has a surprisingly serious hunger problem. According to Feeding America’s most recent Map the Meal Gap 2016 data, 10.9 percent of county residents (approximately 335,000 people) experienced food insecurity in 2014. Of that number, 141,170 were under the age of 18. With about 750,000 children residing in Orange County, this means that one in five of the county’s young residents suffer some kind of food insecurity. County seniors suffer too, as recent data indicates some 44 percent of residents aged 65 and over struggle with accessing the healthcare, housing—and food–they need.

The list below includes a few of the Orange County organizations working to not only lower those numbers and increase access to fresh and nutritious food for those citizens who cannot afford to purchase it, but also to strengthen community via local food system development efforts. Read more

Coalition Fights Food Waste to End Hunger in Orange County

When Santa Ana pediatrician and Orange County Public Health Officer Eric Handler ran into Mark Lowry of the Orange County Food Bank some years ago, he had two questions for him:

  1. Do you have enough food in your food bank?
  2. If we captured all food waste, could we end hunger in Orange County?

Lowry’s answer to the first question was no, and his answer to the second question was yes. This interaction led to the formation of the Waste Not OC Coalition in 2012.

With an overarching goal to eradicate hunger in Orange County, the Waste Not OC Coalition recovers food by connecting restaurants and grocery stores with food recovery agencies. It distributes that food by connecting people in need with food pantries. It also educates donors, recipients and the general public about the importance of food donation and how to safely handle donated food. Read more

OC-based Specialty Produce Co. Fights Food Waste, Helps Community

Students and officials from Oak Middle School in Los Alamitos, California enjoy a new salad bar, thanks in part to Frieda’s Specialty Produce. (photo courtesy of Oakley Boren/Frieda’s Specialty Produce)

Students and officials from Oak Middle School in Los Alamitos, California enjoy a new salad bar, thanks in part to Frieda’s Specialty Produce. (photo courtesy of Oakley Boren/Frieda’s Specialty Produce)

Though involved to a greater extent in the sourcing and national distribution of exotic produce, Los Alamitos-based Frieda’s Specialty Produce has deep roots in Orange County and a commitment to helping the local community eat healthy, fresh food.

Founded in downtown Los Angeles in 1962 by Frieda Caplan, the company moved to its present location in Los Alamitos in 1994 and has been operating from there ever since.

Frieda’s deals with exotic specialty fruits grown around the world. The trend toward exotic fruits and vegetables began when Frieda imported the first kiwifruit to the United States in 1962.

“We imported the first spaghetti squash, shallots, pine nuts, and purple potatoes,” says Karen Caplan, Frieda’s daughter and CEO of the company. “This changed the landscape of American diets.” Read more