Iowa Plans New Initiatives to Address Rising Food Waste Totals

Iowa's food waste totals are rising. Flickr/sporkist

Iowa’s food waste totals are rising. Photo: Flickr/sporkist

Food waste is a global epidemic that carries broad-sweeping effects for communities, businesses and the environment. In the U.S. alone, about 40 percent of all edible food goes to waste — a figure made even more troubling considering 50 million Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from.

While food waste figures are on the decline in some states due to the onset of curbside composting, Iowa has seen a rapid uptick in recent years. Iowa landfills saw a 62 percent increase in food waste disposal from 1998 to 2011 — with tossed food making up 14 percent of the municipal solid waste stream.

To fight back against swelling landfills, the Iowa Waste Reduction Center (IWRC) began a three-phase project last year with support from the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

A program of the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Business Administration, the IWRC focuses on providing free environmental assistance to small businesses in the Midwestern state, but its food waste measures are also designed to help schools, hospitals and other organizations, as well as residents, cut back on waste.

Earth911 sat down with Daniel Nickey, associate director of IWRC, to get the lowdown on the program’s success so far and its future goals to reduce food waste in Iowa. Read on for the details.

Start with education

As its first step, the IWRC began a wide array of education programs to start the conversation about reducing food waste.

Measures include an Iowa Food Waste Reduction Project website — filled with up-to-date resources, tips and regulatory information to help residents and institutions cut back — and a series of workshops to spur discussion on the issue.

“We’re trying to lay the foundation for food waste reduction in Iowa, but the next step we’d like to see is actually going and helping with the implementation of food waste reduction projects across the state,” Nickey explains.

Next page: Learning by example

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