StopWaste, a local public agency, is giving grant money for projects that prevent waste in Alameda County. Past grant recipients have used the money for efforts ranging from cutting down on food waste, to funding reusable trays for school lunches; collecting gently used baby clothes for newborns who need them; and teaching young people job skills, by refurbishing computers.
StopWaste is offering more grant money than ever this year — $1.1 million — not just to nonprofits and institutions like school districts, but also to businesses. The application deadline is March 3, with an informational webinar on Jan. 31.
The idea behind the StopWaste grant program is not just to recycle or compost materials, but to eliminate them in the first place through reuse, repair, re-design, recovery (donation) and redistribution of surplus edible food, replacing single-use packing with reusable alternatives, and more.
In addition, grant funding is designed to support efforts that benefit and strengthen the community, create jobs, and boost racial and social equity.
“The goal is not only to keep valuable resources out of the landfill, but to model new ways of handling materials that benefit the community and address important issues much beyond waste,” said Timothy Burroughs, StopWaste’s executive director.
“We have seen grant-funded projects connect groups and individuals in meaningful ways, provide economic opportunities where they’re needed most, and improve access to nutritious food,” he said.
An example of these goals is the partnership between two Oakland nonprofits: Civicorps, whose job training and support services create long-term career opportunities for young people, and Tech Exchange, which works to ensure that all families have a computer, Internet access and the digital skills necessary to enhance their lives. In 2020, each group received a $20,000 Reuse & Repair Grant to teach several Civicorps members all aspects of refurbishing donated computers — from testing and upgrading the devices to warehouse management and communication with customers and team members. Tech Exchange then donated the upcycled refurbished computers to Oakland students without home technology access.
“The project made a difference on several levels,” said Rachel Eisner, Civicorps’ director of Development and Communications. “Our Corpsmembers learned job skills that are in high demand, we helped bridge the digital divide among Oakland students, and we extended the life of computers, saving resources and preventing e-waste.”
Another Reuse & Repair grantee is nonprofit Loved Twice, whose mission is to clothe newborns in need with high-quality reused baby clothing for the first year of life. Several grants from StopWaste have helped them collect gently used baby clothes, sort the garments into boy and girl wardrobes-in-a-box, and distribute them through social workers in clinics, shelters, and hospitals such as Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Highland Hospital in Oakland.
“We believe community starts with serving our most vulnerable members,” said Executive Director Lisa Klein. “Loved Twice provides the missing link between those who have perfectly good infant clothes that no longer serve them and new parents in desperate need.”
Several of the grant categories are designed to support projects that prevent food waste, a cause high on StopWaste’s priority list.
“In Alameda County, it’s estimated that nearly 50,000 tons of edible food is discarded by businesses and institutions each year,” said Burroughs of StopWaste. “Meanwhile, one in four county residents experiences hunger or is at risk. Grant-funded food waste prevention and recovery projects make a difference and model solutions.”
One such solution is the work done by Daily Bowl in Union City, recipient of a Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Grant. The nonprofit’s small staff builds and maintains relationships with grocery stores, fresh food distributors and farmers markets, and regularly collects their surplus perishables including produce, dairy and prepared foods, in a refrigerated van. Daily Bowl then distributes the donations to agencies and nonprofits, which share the rescued food with families throughout southern Alameda County. Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Grants are up to $20,000 per grant.
Nonprofits involved in surplus edible food recovery in Alameda County can also apply for a Surplus Food Donation Equipment Grant, up to $10,000 each. This may include refrigerators, freezers, coolers, thermal blankets, hot/cold packs, shelving for food storage, and more.
For a second year, the 2023 grant cycle includes Reusable Foodware Grants for innovative projects that replace single-use, disposable foodware with reusable systems. Funded pilot projects will help StopWaste explore the feasibility of reusable foodware systems in various settings with the long-term goal of scaling up in Alameda County. Individual grant amounts range from $5,000 to $50,000.
Last year, a $40,000 grant went to DishJoy, a reusable foodware washing and distribution service, and the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland for a pilot project replacing disposable lunch trays and utensils with reusable alternatives made from stainless steel at several schools in the Alameda Unified School District, including Bay Farm School. Besides waste prevention the project is a win for students’ health because disposable lunch trays are typically made from expanded polystyrene or molded paper fiber that leach toxic substances into food.
StopWaste’s grant website offers more details including lists of previously funded projects and application support. Online applications are due by March 3. Potential grant applicants are encouraged to attend StopWaste’s grant information webinar on Jan 31.