US Food Loss and Waste Policy Action Plan Pitched to Congress

Screen shot of https://foodwasteactionplan.org/.
Screen shot of https://foodwasteactionplan.org/.

 

As reported in the April 8, 2021 issue of Waste Dive,

“An action plan to curb food loss and waste in the U.S. — pitched to Congress and the Biden administration this week by four organizations and supported by a host of cities, businesses and nonprofits — recommends funding infrastructure that keeps organic waste out of disposal sites by providing state- and city-level investments for measuring, rescuing and recycling it.

Led by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), ReFED and World Wildlife Fund, the plan also stipulates that federal facilities take steps to prevent organic waste and purchase finished compost products. The organizers urge lawmakers to spur growth of compost markets among private sector buyers as well. 

The plan calls for allocating $650 million annually through at least 2030 to states and cities for organic waste recycling infrastructure and other food waste reduction strategies. It also calls for $50 million for those cities and states to pursue public-private partnerships; $50 million in grants for research and innovation in the space; $3 million annually through 2030 for consumer food waste reduction research and behavior change campaigns; and $2 million to add personnel to the Federal Interagency Food Loss and Waste Collaboration…

Signatories to the policy outline include the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the US Composting Council and Vanguard Renewables.

Currently, city offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Madison, Wisconsin, have also formally supported the plan.

While the plan points to job creation, climate and food donation benefits that have resulted from more comprehensive organics laws in California, Massachusetts and Vermont, it also lays out a number of other individual steps local governments can take. They include mandating food scrap recycling, enacting pay-as-you-throw policies and increasing disposal tip fees by adding taxes per unit of trash.”

Read the full story at https://www.wastedive.com/news/food-waste-action-plan-biden-congress-nrdc-refed/598032/.

See also the NRDC’s announcement of the plan and download the action plan itself at https://foodwasteactionplan.org/.

 

Upcoming Webinars: ReFED to Launch Insights Engine and Roadmap to 2030

ReFED, a multi-stakeholder nonprofit organization which takes a data-driven approach to formulating and advocating for food waste solutions in the US, will be introducing new resources and data during a series of webinars next week.

The same presentation will be given on February 2, 3, and 4, 2021, at 12:00 Central Time. You may register to attend one of these presentations at https://refed.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_VB5upTxQQV20v_SoLqmDWQ?timezone_id=America%2FChicago.

According to ReFed:

“We’re introducing two new resources that can help the food system cut food waste in half by the year 2030 – plus we’ll be releasing new data showing the extent and impact of food waste in the U.S. over the last ten years.

ReFED’s Roadmap to 2030: Reducing U.S. Food Waste by 50% looks at the entire food supply chain and identifies seven key action areas for the food system to focus its food waste reduction efforts. It also includes a detailed financial analysis to help direct the private, public, and philanthropic capital investments needed to fund them.

Our Insights Engine is an online hub for data and solutions that can help you bring a food waste reduction initiative to life, including:

– A granular analysis of food waste by sector, state, food type, cause, and impact built from more than 50 public and proprietary datasets;

– A detailed cost-benefit analysis of more than 40 food waste reduction solutions; and

– A directory of more than 700 organizations ready to partner on food waste reduction initiatives.

Food waste is a solvable problem. Join us in February to jumpstart your food waste reduction efforts – and help achieve our 2030 reduction goal.”

Register at https://refed.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_VB5upTxQQV20v_SoLqmDWQ?timezone_id=America%2FChicago.

Learn More

ReFed: The Roadmap to Reduce US Food Waste

ReFed: Food Waste Solutions

 

UW-Green Bay Uses Campus Composter to Divert Food Waste from Landfill

As reported by WBAY.com, an Earth Flow composting system, which has been use on the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UW-Green Bay) campus since October 2020, has thus far helped the university divert about 15,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill. The student government bought the composter using money from the campus sustainability fund.

Read the full story and watch the video at https://www.wbay.com/2020/11/27/uw-green-bay-new-campus-composter-diverts-thousands-of-pounds-of-food-waste-from-landfills/,

According to the report, food scraps are collected in five-gallon buckets from the campus foodservice operations. Studen workers add the scraps to the composter, along with two buckets of wood chips for each bucket of food scraps. The wood chips are sourced from local tree-trimming operations. When completed the compost is used in various campus gardens, and may ultimately be made available to the public.

Learn more about Earth Flow Composting Systems at https://compostingtechnology.com/in-vessel-composting-systems/earth-flow-custom-vessel/.

View photos of the composting system installation at Inside UW-Green Bay News: https://news.uwgb.edu/featured/go-green/10/06/photos-earth-flow-composter-installed/.

Note that links to products or services are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by the author, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Seven Generations Ahead Webinar on School Waste Reduction, Sept. 2

As students head back to school in one way or another, it’s time to consider how to reduce waste related to school activities. Tomorrow, September 2 at 4 PM CT, Seven Generations Ahead, a non-profit organization based in Oak Park, IL, will host a free webinar on waste reduction for schools during COVID-19.

To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/zero-waste-school-practices-during-covid-19-registration-116924074053.

From the registration site:

“Back-to-school is going to be different this year, and reopening plans continue to evolve. Zero waste efforts will need to pivot to meet the challenges we are facing.

Join Susan Casey and Becky Brodsky from SGA’s Zero Waste Schools program and school leaders from around the country to exchange ideas and learn ways to creatively adapt zero waste practices to our new circumstances.

Contributing to the conversation:

  • Nancy Deming, K-12 Sustainability Specialist, Custodial and Nutrition Services, Oakland Unified School District
  • Dan Schnitzer, Director of Sustainability and Capital Projects, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
  • Kate Mason-Schultz, Coordinator of Nutrition Services, Evanston/Skokie School District 65

The conversation will center around reducing waste from the classroom and food service by adapting prevention, recycling, composting, and food recovery strategies. We’ll also share ways students and families can learn how to reduce waste at home, including composting and single-use plastics reduction.”

recycling bin with milk cartons inside, screen shot from webinar registration page

NRDC Launches Two Regional “Food Matters” Cohorts

In a previous post, we highlighted a toolkit from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Food Matters program, consisting of resources to assist municipalities as they tackle various food waste issues. Shortly after the release of this toolkit, NRDC also announced the creation of two Food Matters Regional Initiatives, consisting of cohorts of cities. The Mid-Atlantic cohort includes Baltimore, MD (hub); Jersey City, NJ; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, PA; and Washington, D.C. The Southeast cohort includes Nashville, TN (hub); Asheville, NC; Atlanta, GA; Memphis TN, and Orlando, FL.

From the NRDC blog: ‘Starting with the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, we are launching a Food Matters Regional Initiative, with the goal of furthering larger-scale change related to food waste at a regional level. From a pool of regional applicant cities, we selected five cities to participate in each regional initiative, including previous partner cities as “hub cities” in each region…Our cohorts will include city representatives who will network with one another, with NRDC, and with local partner organizations to set goals, develop workplans, and identify regional strategies that help maximize their resources. NRDC will work with each city to estimate their baseline food waste generation and rescue potential and to provide technical assistance on developing food waste strategies that help bolster their broader food systems, sustainability, and climate goals.’

To learn more about the regional initiatives and work done in specific cities (including those not included in regional initiatives), visit the Food Matters web site and click on “Where We Work.”

NRDC Releases “Food Matters” Resources to Guide Municipal Food Waste Efforts

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has announced the availability of a compendium of resources from its “Food Matters” project. The resources are meant to assist municipalities as they tackle various food waste issues. Read the full press release on the NRDC web site at https://www.nrdc.org/media/2020/200616:

“The Food Matters Program and Policy Toolkit is designed for city policymakers and agency staff nationwide who are seeking to advance a program or implement policies to prevent food from becoming waste, increase donation of surplus food, and recycle food scraps. Alongside the toolkit is a curated set of guides to tackle food waste at the local level which have proven successful in NRDC’s work with Food Matters cities. The toolkit and templates are designed to meet cities at different stages of their food waste journey, providing users with practical resources to take both incremental steps towards city-wide change as well as bold accelerated strategies.”

Case studies from cities such as Baltimore, Denver, Nashville, and New York are included in the resource compendium.

View the full compendium at https://www.nrdc.org/food-matters.

screenshot of food matters pages on NRDC web site

Food Waste Curriculum from IL EPA, UI MSTE, Now Available Online

A previous guest post by Amanda Price described her experiences teaching a new food waste curriculum for fifth and sixth-graders developed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE). The curriculum is now available online. Visit https://pathways.mste.illinois.edu/curriculum/food-waste to access the unit, an associated teacher guide, the material and supply list, student activity sheets, and other related resources.

Screenshot from the food waste unit on the Environmental Pathways web site.

Illinois EPA Pilots New Food Waste Curriculum in Springfield Schools

The following post was written by Amanda Price. We’re grateful to her for sharing her experiences teaching the new food waste curriculum to IL students and thrilled to hear about students inspired to take action! All photos are courtesy of Amanda Price.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partnered with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) to create a two-week food waste curriculum unit for fifth and sixth-grade educators. The unit is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and will be free and available online at the end of May 2020. It will be housed with the first unit created by MSTE and Illinois EPA on surface water and algae on the Environmental Pathways website: https://pathways.mste.illinois.edu/.

Classroom image of Amanda Price presenting food waste unit to elementary students seated at desksAmanda Price piloted the unit in two fifth grade science classes at Butler Elementary and Sandburg Elementary February-March 2020. Both schools are located in Springfield, IL. Amanda works as a Graduate Public Service Intern (GPSI) in the offices of Environmental Education and Community Relations at Illinois EPA. The GPSI program places University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) graduate students in state agency internships in for the duration of their studies. Amanda will earn a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences this May 2020. She taught the unit as part of her capstone graduate project.

The food waste unit follows the NGSS investigative storyline model that is Three boys gather around the jar they are working on and smile at the cameradriven by student questions. It teaches students the importance of food waste reduction, landfill diversion, and composting as part of a circular food system. Students create “landfills in a jar” with materials given to them with the goal of protecting the sand, or “groundwater,” at the bottom of the jar. Students also create “compost in a jar” using fresh food scraps and other compostable materials. Students monitor their jars throughout the unit and record scientific data such as temperature and mass. They learn how bacteria act as decomposers. The unit also incorporates map-reading and asks students to think critically about the pros and cons of choosing space for new landfill construction.

Elementary students sorting food waste in a school cafeteriaThe main hands-on activity in the unit is a food waste audit, which can be performed at various scales. Students use data from the audit to calculate the estimated food wasted per person, during the school year, etc. Students end the unit by creating a community awareness or action plan to inform their community or advocate for change. A few students at Butler Elementary wrote a letter to the principal asking him to install a clock in the cafeteria so students could track how much time they had to eat. The principal took swift action and ordered the clock.

Illinois EPA looks forward to sharing the free curriculum with both formal and informal educators around the state. The unit helps increase students’ environmental awareness and stewardship and is best paired with action to reduce waste in the school.

Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools now available for download

This post originally appeared on the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Blog on April 13, 2020. 

Just in time for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the Wasted Food Action Alliance is pleased to announce the release of the Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools. Though schools throughout the state are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this toolkit will allow districts and food service staff members to make plans for food waste reduction efforts when schools are able to welcome back students and staff in person.

The Wasted Food Action Alliance is a diverse set of organizations helping build a unified approach towards reducing wasted food and leveraging it to benefit our region. Its mission is to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food by connecting and building on current wasted food initiatives, education, and policy in unified ways that holistically promote source reduction; food recovery for hunger relief and other uses; and recovery of food scraps for composting and creating healthy soil.

Joy Scrogum, a member of ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), is part of the Wasted Food Action Alliance subcommittee which developed the school food waste reduction toolkit. Joy coordinated ISTC’s Green Lunchroom Challenge project, and continues to work on food waste prevention and reduction through TAP’s work with clients, the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, and related local and regional projects. The Wasted Food Action Alliance school toolkit subcommittee was lead by Seven Generations Ahead.

Cover of Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois SchoolsWhat’s the problem with food waste in schools?

Over 7 billion school meals are served each year in the United States. Much of this food, however, is currently feeding landfills instead of nourishing students. This is while one in six children is food insecure. When food is landfilled, not only are its nutrients lost, so are all the energy, water, and labor that went into producing, transporting, and preparing it. K-12 schools have a unique role in teaching students to value food instead of wasting it.

The Food Waste Reduction Toolkit for Illinois Schools can help.

The Toolkit is a comprehensive resource that provides all schools, no matter their size or location, the tools to tackle the issue of wasted food. It identifies the main sources of wasted food and offers strategies for food waste prevention, recovery and redistribution, composting, education and engagement, and celebrating success. A variety of solutions are shared–from easy and quick to implement to longer term and more resource intensive.

The Toolkit’s easy to use format allows you to jump in to find the strategies that work for your school. Each section includes case studies that highlight inspirational efforts to reduce food waste in schools across Illinois and provides guidance on:

Measuring food waste

  • Waste audit guides
  • How to determine what to audit in your lunchroom and kitchen
  • Food waste tracking in kitchens
  • Analyzing waste audit data

Preventing food waste

  • Sourcing food from school gardens and local farms to encourage consumption of healthy foods
  • Menu planning and food preparation
  • Preventing food waste at the serving line, including Offer versus Serve

Recovering and redistributing surplus food

  • Policies and laws regarding share tables and the redistribution of food (including the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that supports the donation of recovered food)
  • How to set up and operate a share table
  • Redistribution of surplus food within a school
  • Donation of surplus food to an outside organization or in-school food pantry

Composting food scraps

  • The environmental benefits of composting
  • Onsite composting
  • Offsite commercial composting
  • How to get started composting in your lunchroom

Educating and engaging the school community

  • Hands-on classroom or service learning projects
  • Curricula and lessons about food and food waste
  • Teaching tools and resources

Communicating and celebrating success

  • Communications within school community
  • Communications with the wider community
  • Get recognized with programs such as Green Ribbon Schools and the U.S. Food Waste Challenge

The toolkit is available on the Wasted Food Action Alliance web site.

Seven Generations Ahead Helps Oak Terrace School Achieve Ninety Percent Diversion

Seven Generations Ahead recently reported on assistance provided to Oak Terrace Elementary School in Highwood, IL as part of the Zero Waste Schools-Lake County Program. The dedicated students have helped their lunchroom achieve an approximate 90% diversion of materials from landfill.

Instead of tossing all lunch waste into the trash, students now use sorting stations with containers for liquids, recycling, compost (for all food scraps, food-soiled napkins, and lunch trays), and landfill trash. Their sorting stations also have share tables where students can put school lunch items (whole fruit and factory-sealed foods) they take but do not eat which can be used later as snacks.” Some specially trained students, designated “Zero Waste Agents” monitor cafeteria sorting stations to ensure materials are placed into appropriate bins and to reduce contamination of recycling and composting streams. Back-of-house sorting is also occurring and food service workers, custodial staff, and teachers have also been involved in training and hands-on contributions to waste reduction efforts.

To read more about this case study, see the project update on the Seven Generations Ahead web site.