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Social EM: Food Insecurity With Mike Learakos

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

People across the country, and across the world suffer from food insecurity. What can we do to help bridge the gap and ensure we all have access to nutritious food? Dr. Victor Cisneros and Dr. Alaina Rajagopal discuss food insecurity with Mike Learakos, a food professional and restaurant owner who noticed the TONS of food waste he encountered in the restaurant industry and decided to do something about it. Listen in to hear more about what food insecurity and food deserts are, and how Mike and Abound Food Care are working to stop it. We'll also talk about how food waste impacts the medical community, the homeless, and the climate.


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Social EM: Food Insecurity With Mike Learakos

We're talking about food insecurity and the idea of eliminating food waste and hunger. Why are we talking about food insecurity on the show? Depending on the location of an emergency department, the department may see a lot of transient and undomiciled patients. These patients may come to their local ED, not for an ache or pain but because they're cold or hungry.

These patients may want a sandwich, some socks, or a warm bed to sleep in for a few hours on a cold night. Food insecurity, food deserts, and other social issues may lead to a higher proportion of patients requiring these services in certain areas. We're kicking off our Social Emergency Medicine series with Dr. Victor Cisneros and a very special guest.

Thank you, Dr. R. Food insecurity is a huge social determinant for health, as we've seen previously in the show. We're lucky to have Mr. Mike Learakos, who will be giving us some insight and more information on food recovery systems and the organization he leads, Abound Food Care. I've known him for some time already since I was a Master's in Public Health student.

Mike Learakos is a food service professional for many years in the industry. In addition to his role as President and Cofounder of TJM Incorporated, a broad-spectrum food service company formed in 1993. Mike has a long history of sales and marketing as a manager representing different food service manufacturers, processors, facilitators, and distributors.

He volunteered to head Abound Pilot Program. He is now the full Executive Director at the beginning of September 2016. In this role, he directs the public/private partnership to end hunger and reduce waste by working with healthcare providers, the food service industry, and different waste haulers. Together, he has identified and assisted people suffering from food insecurity, recovered excess edible food destined for landfills, and directed it to area food pantries serving those in need. Welcome, Mike.

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Tell us a little bit about your organization and how you got involved.

I'm a third-generation food industry. All I've ever had in life has come from food. I tend to value it differently than a lot of people. It is not only life-sustaining, but it is the source of the revenue, the money that we get to survive. That's what led us down this path of food recovery. Our organization, Abound Food Care started in 2012. It was cofounded by the public health officer for the County of Orange in California, Dr. Eric Handler.

It started as a real simple naive thought that we could end hunger if we captured all the food that we discarded. The numbers bear that out. Upwards of 40% of all the food that we produce is wasted, yet we have 1 in 9 Americans that are deemed food insecure, and that number fluctuates from time to time.

It illustrates that if food is money to the food industry and we waste 38% of all that food, that means there are real reasons why food donation doesn't occur on a larger scale and why the food industry is hesitant to donate food. That has been my entire life. We knew the reasons why. We started to develop this model based on the food industry's comfort level in participating in donating food, and that is to eliminate the risk.

We've been very fortunate. In the US, there are Good Samaritan laws, both federal and state, here in California that allow you to donate food without fear of liability, but that doesn't solve the biggest concern, which is the protection of our brand. That's the biggest issue. We get sued all the time, unfortunately. It sounds crazy, but it's true. That's what attorneys and insurance are for.

TED 52 | Food Insecurity
Food Insecurity: If food is money to the food industry and we waste 38% of all that food, that means there are real reasons why food donation doesn't occur on a larger scale, why the food industry is hesitant to donate food.

The reality is that what we guard against most is our brand that we've spent lifetimes and fortunes developing, and that could be washed away with one foodborne illness that leads to a fatality. That is a brand hit that none of us can afford. That's what has hindered our ability to recapture excess edible food.

It's amazing that you built this partnership with the public-private center, and you've created an avenue to be able to have these companies feel risk-averse to be able to donate and do something good because many of them want to do something good, but they're like, "I don't want to get sued." You've opened this dialogue and informed them.

We realized early on that we had to take this larger, broader, 30,000-foot view. When you're in the trenches, the nonprofits, they're the foot soldiers that are feeding people and doing all that heavy lifting, but they're in the middle of it. When we were up above that aerial view, and you look down, you see where all the gaps are at.

The gaps were cold storage, logistics, and food safety. Those are all things that we could see were interrupting that food supply chain when it came to excess edible food. As we developed this program, it was an idea to identify these gaps, and anybody can do that. The harder part is to start working on solutions, and that requires this collaborative effort between the public and private sector and the nonprofits that do that heavy lifting.

Can you tell me a little bit more about some of the issues with food safety that you have encountered?

The nonprofit agencies do a lot of this work. They have been around for decades. Typically, they've handled food that is different than the way we handle food in the food industry. I own a restaurant, and I donate food. I've had agencies come to the back of my restaurant in a pickup truck when it's 100 degrees wanting to load my food up into the back of their truck. I was like, "That is not safe."

We've also had horror stories of volunteers, well-meaning people who pick up food, and then they go run errands. They go to the dry cleaner, pick up their kids at school, and they show up at the nonprofit agency three hours later, not realizing that that food is now in the danger zone. We're dealing with end-of-life food, to begin with. It's fragile food feeding fragile people. It's even more important that we mitigate food safety concerns.

Are most of the issues that you've encountered related to food that is expired or becomes expired and causes gastrointestinal illness, things like that?

The biggest concerns are food that has not been handled correctly. It's prepared or perishable food that has been kept out of temperature. We have a safety zone with food. It's under 41 degrees. Over 41 degrees, that's the danger zone. We either want it 160 degrees ready to serve, or we want it under 41. That danger zone is that middle ground. The longer food is in that middle ground, the faster bacteria grows and the greater risk of somebody getting sick from that.

Ironically, a lot of this food feeds people who are the most vulnerable in our society, the homeless population. They have compromised immune systems because they're living on the streets. They're more susceptible to getting gastrointestinal issues. Many times they assume, "It's the by-product of my lifestyle." They don't realize they're getting sick on food because the food is not safe.

In international medicine, we study foodborne illness pretty extensively. I remember one of my professors when he traveled and did anything in global health. He carried a thermometer with him. He would measure the food he was eating to make sure it was over 160 degrees because a foodborne illness in certain areas of the world is pretty prevalent. I always thought that was funny, but it can be valuable in preventing some of that foodborne illness.

There are nuances and complexities to donating excess edible food and really doing it well.

As we started this process, we started this model in Orange County. It was our test area. It was started as, "This is the way we're going to serve this county." We realized that it doesn't work city by city or county by county. When we look at larger regions, we have greater capacity, and we stop ignoring the food industry. The food industry doesn't comprehend cities and county borders if we look at the food industry. They understand marketplaces and markets. We look at the Western half of the US, the Northeast, the Southeast. These natural geographic barriers create regions, and that's when we're accelerating our abilities when we can marshal resources in a larger area.

The food industry now has a comfort level in participating because their employees or staff know that there's a program in place, a process of capturing excess edible food, holding it, preparing it for donation. Wherever those employees go or whatever store they go to in any county or even any state, they know that process will be replicated. The difficulties, and there are a lot of them, is that we're working with nonprofit agencies that don't know. They don't know that you can't pick up food in a pickup truck because we've always done it this way.

We look at ways of streamlining the process. We are making it efficient, marrying the food source, and the ability to have excess food as a food source, with the reality that food that we capture that doesn't go into the landfill does not create methane gas, a known climate change pollutant. There's an environmental and public health component of it or an individual health component. When we marry those two, we have greater access to funding, resources, and efficiencies.

How do you decide how the food is distributed?

That's a simple process. There's a sonar approach that should be taken. You want the food to stay as close to its point of origin as possible. Travel time is a critical component of this. We want to be able to take that excess food and get it to the nonprofit agencies that are closest to where the food is being donated.

There's a misconception, many times held by the public sector, but this is easy that you donate the food from a restaurant, and it goes to a nonprofit. I did that for years, and then I realized that the shelter nearest to my restaurant would accept my food and throw it in the dumpster because there was a notion that if they turned me away once, I would never come back to them. It was almost like a hoarder mentality.

The reality is that it sometimes takes multiple nonprofit agencies who receive that food that's available either because of the type of food or its nature. It means it needs cold storage and that shelter or pantry doesn't have the cold storage capabilities or there's too much of it. We've gotten truckloads of milled wheat flour that has 15 or 18 pallets of 100-pound sacks. The church down the street isn't going to be able to use that.

We have to distribute over a larger geographic area to food banks or entities that can repurpose that food. Packaging and the type of product has a lot to do with it, but there are these nuances and complexities to donating excess edible food and doing it well to where we're not trading dumpsters from the toner to the nonprofit agency.

What you're doing is amazing. You're creating a green ecosystem with multiple partners in the community. A lot of times, you need different pieces of the puzzle piece to solve an issue, and you're helping put these puzzle pieces together. This potentially can represent health care dollars, and we've had these conversations in the past. If you minimize food insecurity, it can translate to our patients that we could potentially screen. Can you tell us a little bit about these medically tailored meals you're working on?

The analogy of a puzzle is correct because we thought we knew what the puzzle was going to look like until we started putting them in place. We realized that encompassed far more than food recovery. To your point, we realized we had a system where people who were food insecure were receiving non-perishable food, emergency food, which is great. It's great unless you have a medical condition like a coronary condition requiring a low sodium diet because all non-perishable food is loaded with sodium.

TED 52 | Food Insecurity
Food Insecurity: We're dealing with end-of-life food, to begin with. It's fragile food feeding fragile people, it's even more important that we mitigate food safety concerns.

We were giving people who have a medical condition and a dietary restriction. They're now forced to make a decision, "Do I go hungry, or do I eat something that they know is going to make their medical condition worse?" My own mom was in that condition, and I felt ashamed as a restaurateur and leading this effort and championing it, yet my own mom was one that was eating canned goods because she didn't have the ability to prepare her own food.

We realized that we had developed resources and tools designed to handle and more effectively distribute excess edible food. One tool was the development of a network of food repurpose in kitchens. As we get bulk food, that 100-pound sack of milled wheat flour, we get 8-pound turkey breasts and get large-scale pack sizes. We can't hand that out. We needed to be able to enlist the assistance of food repurposing kitchens.

In our model, these are existing food production facilities. They're licensed, inspected, can take this excess food, and create meals or meal components with it. They are vacuum sealed and blast frozen. Going back to food safety and bacteria growth, you've now stunted bacteria growth. You've taken end-of-life food, and you've added two weeks of shelf life, even if you keep it refrigerated.

If you freeze it, you've got well over a year. That was a critical tool for us. The other resource or tool we developed was portable solar-powered freezers that can be put in remote locations. When we combined the two of those, we went, "Here's what we can do. We can have our repurposing kitchens produce this food, but with four specific dietary restrictions in mind, reduce sodium for coronary heart disease, patients that have a renal issue, and diabetics. The last one is for patients who are on blood thinners who can't have certain leafy greens." We can produce this food for them.

The idea being not to provide this food for them all the time necessarily, but during those periods when they find themselves food insecure, with seniors, typically it's the end of the month. Food insecurity runs out, and now they're left to forage in the pantry for canned goods or take what the food bank gives them. They now have access to this nutritious food that will not exacerbate any medical condition. The trick is we need to get the data on what is the effect on their overall health condition over a longer period of time and see the cost-benefit of that.

In my mom's case, what's the cost-benefit of not having home healthcare, going to her house every day to wrap her legs because she has ulcerations in her legs from excess water trying to find an outlet? It certainly isn't a medical term, but it was disturbing to watch. There was a cost-benefit of not having home health care go to her house every day. There had to be a cost-benefit and not having her on medication because we were able to reduce the swelling naturally by getting her at the right diet.

The first point you brought up that was so incredibly important is so often our patients, particularly emergency department patients, have to make a choice between medications, nutritious food or food that's appropriate for their particular medical condition, and what you're doing by making these medically specific meals is so wonderful and helping people make some of those decisions a little bit easier.

We see it time and time again, and you can tell someone what they shouldn't be doing, but if they have to choose between paying $15 for a medication refill and $5 for one pack of strawberries, that isn't going to make them feel full and isn't going to serve as a meal, they're going to not choose the more nutritious, expensive food. Making this more accessible is wonderful. I'm excited about what you're doing.

Medically tailored meals are something that others have thought of and done. What makes it unique is the ability to use donated food, excess edible food. It reduces the cost of preparing those items and allows you to serve or augment that meal with better quality ingredients you will have to purchase because you've reduced the overall cost. There's also a job-training component to this. These food repurposing kitchens offer vocational culinary training, which are entry-level jobs that are well beyond minimum wage and offer a spiderweb of career options for someone.

If we look at food as a hub of a wheel and all the spokes being those social determinants of health, then the food, preparation of food, and culinary training help somebody get out of the condition that led them to food insecurity in the first place. They're helping to feed other people and getting themselves out of that same condition.

Can we define food insecurity and food desert? We have not discussed that specifically so far.

Let's put a spotlight on what we do, good and bad. The negatives, the gaps are not a reflection on anyone or any organization. It's an opportunity to find solutions and bring entities together to develop solutions.

Food insecurity, in layman's definition, is the lack of access to consistent nutritious food. It's different than hunger in some ways. You can feed somebody Twinkies and sustain them for another day, but that's still food insecurity. They're not getting access to the food their body needs. Access to the correct and nutritious food and keeping their food insecure creates better students, employees, and families. There are lots of benefits to it. Food insecurity is the inconsistent access to food.

Food deserts are areas where there isn't that consistent availability of food. For example, in certain inner-city areas, you'll find that the cost of doing business is too great because of security reasons potentially, and you'll find that there aren't very many grocery stores. It means that the costs in those stores typically are higher.

Higher operating costs mean higher sell price of the ingredients or the items that the customer is buying, which means their dollar is not stretched as far, which creates a whole host of other issues. Those are what food deserts are defined as. Some are rural because there are areas where it's hard to get food, or it's not profitable to put a location out there. There isn't enough customer base, and others are the cost of doing business in certain inner-city areas.

Not only are you providing something that is a necessity now with this environment that we're living in. Specifically, with children, we've discussed this in the past prior to COVID, and they were going to school. They were getting at least a meal or so at school. Now, they're at home potentially not getting that meal, and parents are facing higher food insecurity or even access to not just food but quality food. If you're a child and you're trying to focus on math or science, and you're hungry, you're not going to be able to focus. You're going to see your professor as a banana, an apple, or a potential meal.

The work that you're doing is phenomenal. The fact that you're providing this access with these refrigerators. Can you touch base a little bit about the refrigerating system that you've pioneered? That is a game-changer in itself from my standpoint as an ER doc. As someone that is screening people in the emergency department, ideally, it would be phenomenal if I could screen someone, identify them, and refer them to one of these not only food dispensaries but potentially one of these refrigerators where they have access locally before it was a desert.

I can't reiterate often enough. We didn't invent anything. We are trying to take what we know and the resources that are out there, activate them, and create a more efficient system. When we put that puzzle together, it had a name. We didn't know what it was. We had to find a name for it, but it became food care because everything we do is that passionate protection of food, the process, its impact, and its cost. That's what food care is.

There are all these different elements of it, but when you put it together, what we're talking about is the proper care of food, and part of that is the cold storage component of it. Common sense would tell you that we are working on solar-powered everything from cars to buildings, etc. We knew that there were shipping containers that were used to bring food back and forth across the ocean, and our goal was to convert one of them or these shipping containers that are already insulated to solar-powered.

We had a board member at the time that tried to get this done and was unable to follow it through, but we were able to get a somewhat of a working prototype that we could run with. There are a couple of different ways of working with this, but you've got a 20, 30, or 40-foot shipping container insulated with a fully solar-powered apparatus that allows that unit to work and become impervious to power outages.

Think of the Southeast where hurricanes and tornadoes hit in the Midwest or earthquakes, and rolling power outages in the West where high winds lead to devastating fires, so the electric companies will shut off the power. What happens to your food supply? This is the ability to have a consistent supply of electricity that will power these units. It is also the basis of another solution that is in development. That is creating emergency meal programs using those repurposing kitchens using donated food and using these solar-powered units. You can put them out in the community, in these food deserts, or in areas that might be a food desert in the case of a disaster.

In the County of Orange, where we started this, there are two food banks. If we have an earthquake, the proposed or planned and anticipated 7.3 earthquakes, there's a very good chance both buildings are red-tagged. You can't go in and out of them. What happens to the food? Where do people get food? Eventually, FEMA will have emergency resources with the Red Cross that will kick in on the federal level. What about the first 24 to 48 hours before that gets going?

TED 52 | Food Insecurity
Food Insecurity: You can feed somebody Twinkies and sustain them for another day, but that's still food insecurity. They're not getting access to the food that their body needs, access to the correct food, to nutritious food.

We now have these nutritious ready-to-thaw and eat meals already out in the community. When roads and bridges are jacked up, and you can't get from one place to another, you've got access to this food. The beauty of that is we have eight months or a year of no shaking and rolling. On sunny days, that inventory begins to be distributed to the nonprofit agencies that are feeding the homeless population. There's a symmetry and circular component to this. Our job is to connect all of the dots that are there.

You're doing an incredible job. It seems like every new topic we talk about, there's an additional benefit from jobs, training, disaster preparedness, food deserts, and the list goes on. You have put so much thought into this. I'm so impressed.

It was a simplistic view of you would have willing partners where there are cost-benefits. As long as we are able to deliver, in other words, we have to be held accountable. We noticed in this space, there was a lot of wiggle room with data. We were to blame. We were part of it. We would talk about 20 million pounds of food recovered every year, and we realized, "Is that food that is feeding people and being kept out of the landfills?"

We know that we're heavily reliant on a nonprofit sector that, in turn, is heavily reliant on volunteers. Sometimes, they don't have the staff or resources. Sometimes, that food that's donated ends up in the dumpster. We cannot say that that food is being diverted from a landfill. It may not be. It's a matter of, "Let's put a spotlight on what we do, good and bad." The negatives, the gaps are not a reflection on anyone or any organization. It's an opportunity to find solutions and bring entities together to develop the solutions.

I wanted to talk to you a little bit more about the food repurposing kitchens. It seems like that is something that could be valuable all over the world to help reduce food waste. Is that a new concept? Forgive my ignorance. I'm not familiar with it. Is that available and working in other places around the country or around the world?

It's not something we developed or instituted. They had been around. There's a gentleman named Robert Egger who was leading the charge with the DC Central Kitchen in Washington, DC. He came out to California to Los Angeles and started the LA Central Kitchen. Part of my life was running central kitchens and being a part of them. They're expensive. The overhead is high. We looked at an alternative because we couldn't develop the funding required to build a central kitchen or operate a central kitchen. You need to have that funding stream.

We saw the ability to use existing food production facilities and augment what they do by asking them to take this product from distributors, processors, and manufacturers. It's not coming from somebody else's restaurant. It's coming from distributors. It's within code because these distributors have internal processes that force them to donate that food before it even gets close to the expiration date.

If we do that, we are now providing a benefit, not only in terms of the food we're producing but to that food establishment that might keep their second shift working full-time, as opposed to only 30 hours a week. It might keep that entity from losing staff because they don't have enough hours for them. It also spreads the workload around.

I was having a chat with Robert Egger. He goes, "Part of my initial model was using school kitchens." That's another option. If we are going to look at the logistics cost and try to be efficient with logistics, one central kitchen means the product has to come into one place and go out to one place. A multitude of kitchens means you are able to stagger that process. It reduces that logistics cost as well. The best part of it to me is there's a vocational training component of it.

We're taking either at-risk youth, young adults, or those that are interested in culinary, and you're providing them with an opportunity to work at this food. One of our food repurposing kitchens is a community college, Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. The culinary students will work with this food. It reduces the cost of the school, allows them to repurpose it, and that food they're repurposing goes to feed students who are food insecure because that's one heavily underserved demographic is adults from 18 to 24 years old.

For our readers who are interested in this, how can people get involved to help reduce food waste and food insecurity?

Wherever there is food, we can reverse engineer the process and remove food. We just have to keep the basic focus on food safety and efficiencies.

Dr. Handler, our cofounder, made it very clear. "You need to find internal champions." There are people there like Victor who take on this. We can always use those internal champions from anywhere around the country and the world because that's how we bring them aboard and ask them to carry the water for us and help us.

Our goal is to eliminate food insecurity and food waste. That is what we strive to do every day. It isn't to create jobs for the next twenty years for ourselves, but the reality is that we can create jobs for others. Anybody interested in getting involved with this doesn't assume you have nothing to do with the food industry, so you can't participate. There's total outside-the-box thinking involved here. From the development of technology that helps track food to data reporting, analytics, and all these different ways someone can help. It takes a passion to want to feed people and not waste food.

I will plug your podcast, Plentiful, if people want to learn more about food recovery and Abound Food Care. Forever, you will have me as your champion because from the moment that I learned about this when I was an MPH student, I was amazed. The stuff you have created is amazing how everything you've taken from Waste Not OC to now Abound Food Care. People should listen to your podcast and get involved. I highly encourage everybody.

Also, go to if you would like more information, or you want to connect with us. We would welcome the opportunity to spread what we're doing and break down those barriers that exist, and the barriers are geographic. They're all human barriers. They're ego or entities that have been around for a long time. Once they learn that they can collaborate, we all benefit by working together.

That's what we're trying to do, leading by example. In a 5-year period in one geographic area of 3.1 million people, 100 million pounds of food was recovered that used to go into landfills, and that food fed people. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Along the lines, as we do this, we will ultimately reduce our food waste and feed hungry people. It's a win-win.

I hope we can have you back to this show. I'm looking forward to what Abound Food Care will be coming up with in the near future, and keep us posted with all the stuff you're doing.

Thank you. I would love to come back again.

I have another question. You have talked about expanding the program, and Dr. Cisneros, I know you're involved with that a little bit as well. Tell us a little bit about plans for expansion. Somebody reading this might want to take it to their local area. Tell us a little bit about how you could do that.

The Abound Food Care model is replicable anywhere in the country. We always say that wherever there is food, we can reverse engineer the process and remove food. We have to keep this basic focus on food safety and efficiencies. Any market or anywhere in the country, we can start developing the capacity to feed hungry people because of its cost-benefits.

For out of the country too? We have a lot of international readers.

Anywhere where there's food, this process can be reversed.

TED 52 | Food Insecurity
Food Insecurity: If we are going to look at the logistics and trying to be efficient with logistics, one central kitchen means the product has to come into one place, go out to one place. A multitude of kitchens means you are able to stagger that process.

I'm going to bring you to the Coachella Valley to start some of this project and expand out there. Ironically, the Coachella Valley has a lot of farmers, produce of food, but also a lot of food deserts in terms of food and quality of food. It would be great to have you expand this out there.

That's one of the nuances. Ironically, we were chatting with the head of the Ventura Food Bank from Ventura County. We go, "What do you need?" He said, "Produce." I'm looking across Highway 1 farmland. I'm like, "You have all this farmland?" He said, "Produce goes to LA. It doesn't come back to us." It's an example of where, "We grow food in the Coachella Valley, but it's still a food desert."

You see that all over the world. When I was studying abroad in Kenya and East Africa, there was amazing coffee and tea, but most of the people there will drink the freeze-dried Nescafe. I asked, "Where is all of this amazing coffee going?" They said, "We export it." This is so cool, and it's allowing people where the food is grown to be able to take advantage of the work they're doing and the food they're making.

We believe that our model is a solution to a national or international problem, but it's using and developing local resources. That's the best of both worlds. You get the advantage of working as part of a larger group, regions, or continents even, but it puts people to work locally.

Is there anywhere people can get in contact with you or the organization or follow the organization? is our website. There's also Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We have all the social media presence. Most of what we do is help develop other nonprofits and connect all those dots, but we would welcome the help.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was such a great discussion, and I'm excited to continue to talk to you and learn more about what you are doing.

Thank you so much for having me and letting us share our story.

If you like what you read, please subscribe, comment, or send this episode to someone who might want to read it. This episode was supported by the National Geographic Society Emergency Fund For Journalists. Thanks for reading. Until next time.

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About Mike Learakos

TED 52 | Food Insecurity

Mike Learakos a food service professional with over 30 years of industry experience. In addition to his role as the President and co-founder of TJM, inc, a broad-spectrum food service company formed in 1993, Mike has a long history as a sales and marketing manager representing food service manufacturers, processors, facility designers, and distributors.

More recently, in 2014, Mike volunteered to head the Abound Food Care Pilot Program, and became the full-time Executive Director of Abound Food Care in September of 2016. In this role, he directs this public/private partnership to end hunger and reduce waste by working with healthcare providers, the food service industry, municipalities and waste haulers. Together, they identify and assist people suffering from food insecurity, and recover excess edible food destined for landfills and direct it to area food pantries serving those in need.

About Dr. Victor Cisneros

Dr. Victor Cisneros was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico but was raised in Anaheim, California. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology and a Minor in Chemistry and his Medical Degree (MD), Masters of Public Health (MPH), and Board Certification in Public Health (CPH) at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. He was part of the Program In Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC) which is a dual degree program that focuses on increasing physician-leaders who are culturally sensitive and linguistically competent to address the specific needs of California’s Latinx population.

After medical school, he completed his emergency medicine residency training at UC Irvine Medical Center, where he was one of the chief residents. During residency, he served as At-Large Director and Board member for AAEM and liaison to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and International Subcommittee. He has also served as the vice-chair for the social emergency medicine ACEP-EMRA committee.

He completed a research fellowship in Population Health and Social Emergency Medicine and Currently, he serves as attending physician and Graduate Medical Education (GME) Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Eisenhower Health.


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