Jennifer Trent presents at Drake Community Library

40% of all food produced in the United States ends up in landfills or is incinerated. This food waste produces methane gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, costs the United States economy $165 billion per year and never reaches the 40 million people in the United States that struggle with hunger.

In Poweshiek county, wasted food makes up almost 20% of our landfills, while 11.2% of the population don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

These are the sobering facts presented by Jennifer Trent at Drake Library during the July Waste Reduction Speaker Series. Jennifer Trent is a Sustainability Specialist at the Iowa Waste Reduction Center (IWRC) and specializes in food waste reduction efforts with schools and small businesses. She gave examples of businesses big and small that divert food waste from their location to composting facilities and set up waste logs to quantify their waste. She told the stories of students that took initiative and connected their school with a composting site to prevent 21,600 pounds of food waste per school year from entering the landfill.

So what can Grinnell do?

Grinnell is already doing some great things. Jennifer Trent remembers visiting Grinnell College years ago where she was impressed to learn that 1,500 pounds of food waste were diverted to composting every week. However, there is more to be done. The two biggest challenges facing individuals and organizations when it comes to food waste reduction and diversion are cost and lack of education. As individuals, we can educate ourselves about where our food goes and how to be a smart consumer. As businesses and members of the community, we can discover the cost of wasted food and encourage our commercial and industrial community to cut the waste to cut the cost.

Here are 10 ways you can make a change!

  1. Ask your favorite restaurant or grocery store what they do with their food waste. Let them know that the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects food donors from liability should the food harm someone as long as everything was done to maintain food safety and the food was believed to be safe.
  2. Measure your food waste and set personal goals.
  3. Compost in your backyard.
  4. Don’t go shopping hungry!
  5. Chop vegetables right when you get home from the grocery store for easy snacking.
  6. Eat older foods first.
  7. Repurpose left-overs.
  8. Bring left-overs to work to share.
  9. Only shop from a grocery list after you’ve inventoried your cupboards, fridge, and freezer.
  10. Talk to your kids’ school about food waste.