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Dr. Eric Handler: Feeding the Need

ABOUT

  • Since August 2006, Dr. Eric Handler (MD, MPH '85) has been the Health Officer for Orange County, which includes cities known for their wealth like Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.  
  • When Dr. Handler learned that Orange County ranks in the Top 10 in the nation for food insecurity, he recognized that this was an issue he absolutely needed to address. In 2012, alongside Orange County Food Bank CEO Mark Lowry, he founded the Waste Not Orange County (O.C.) Coalition, a public-private partnership formed to “reduce hunger and solid waste by facilitating the donation of wholesome surplus food.”
  • In the past, Dr. Handler has served as the Deputy Secretary for Children’s Medical Services in the Florida Department of Health and Chief Medical Officer for the Florida Department of Children and Families. He also served as the Chief Medical Officer for the Boston Regional Office for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

IMPACT

  • Dr. Handler is working with American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) California Chapter 4, which strives to promote optimal health to all children living in Orange County, to advocate that pediatricians ask two questions of families in order to identify food insecurity and offer resources. Clinicians ask parents if they agree with the following:

                      1. Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.
                      2. Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have the money to get more.

  • One resource offered on the Waste Not O.C. website to provide information about a local food pantry is an interactive Google map of all the pantries in the county. The map models a resource that other communities can easily replicate and offer to their communities.  
  • The Waste Not O.C. website has information for restaurant owners, letting them know if the food is prepared correctly when donated, they will not be held liable after that time.  The coalition will provide it with a seal that can be displayed in the window saying it is a supporter of the Waste Not O.C. Coalition. Several counties have adopted this procedure. 
  • To reduce the estimated forty percent of food that is wasted in the United States, the coalition promotes the idea that businesses can easily change their habits and have an impact. Currently, more than fifty establishments, including supermarkets, restaurants, and other food facilities, in the city of Anaheim are helping to end hunger and waste. The Waste Not O.C. effort is working to get more food facilities on board to end hunger in the city-wide Anaheim Food Recovery Pilot project. 
  • The Waste Not O.C. effort is grabbing the attention of many communities across the nation. It was featured on the PBS NewsHour, highlighting how simple strategies are being carried out to combat hunger in Orange County.