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EPA Recognizes Seven New England Organizations for Reducing Food Waste

Projects in Conn., Mass., N.H., R.I., and Vermont

04/23/2020
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding seven local New England organizations with recognition for their work keeping wasted food out of landfills and incinerators and putting it to better use.

EPA gave national recognition to Keene State College, in Keene, N.H.; the Katharine Lee Bates Elementary School, in Wellesley, Mass.; and Signature Bread, in Chelsea, Mass.

Further, EPA gave regional recognition to the R.I. Dept. of Health: Rhode to End Hunger Initiative, in Providence, R.I.; the Island Grown Initiative to reduce food waste reduction and redirection project Marthas Vineyard, Mass.; the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District food waste reduction for greener schools, in Montpelier, VT; and the Center for Ecotechnology, in Florence, Mass. for their project "Help Hartford County's Hungry" in Hartford County, Conn.

The awards are part of EPA's Food Recovery Challenge (FRC). The Food Recovery Challenge takes part in the efforts of the "Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative," a partnership including EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration, to reduce food loss and waste through combined federal action.

"Food Recovery Challenge participants are leaders in showing how preventing food waste and diverting excess wholesome food to people is an environmental win and a cost-saving business decision." said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "Their accomplishments serve as excellent examples to other companies, governments, organizations and communities."

"EPA is very pleased to recognize these New England businesses and organizations for doing excellent work preventing food waste and providing excess food to people in need," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "These actions can be a strong example to other organizations and communities who are working to reduce impacts on solid waste disposal and simultaneously ensure that edible foods are not wasted."

National EPA Recognition for Food Waste Recovery

Keene State College, Keene, N.H. was recognized nationally by EPA in the category of Data-driven Winner, Colleges/Universities. Keene State modified its food waste composting program in its common dining area in December 2017 to include all kitchen waste and post-consumer food waste. This significant expansion of collected and composted food waste was a critical step toward achieving the school's ambitious goal of qualifying as a zero-waste campus by 2030. In a year, Keene State more than doubled the amount of food waste composted. The weight of compost collected increased from 41.76 tons in 2017 to 110.66 tons in 2018. The reduced cost for composting, compared to landfillings, saved the school $4,324. As a result, Keene State College expanded composting to other food service vendors in the Student Center beginning the summer of 2019.

"Keene State College is thrilled with the success of its expanded composting program. Not only does it move the college forward in attaining its ambitious zero-waste by 2030 goal, but it saves money and models full-circle composting—we love that compost generated from KSC food waste is returned to our campus landscaping as a nutrient-rich finished compost. The program is a "win-win" all around!" - Dr. Cary Gaunt, Director of Campus Sustainability, Keene State College.

Katharine Lee Bates Elementary School, Wellesley, Mass. was recognized nationally by EPA in the category of Data-driven Winner, K-12 Schools. In 2016, Bates Elementary School students partnered with local organizations to ascertain what was being wasted in their cafeteria and how to reduce that waste. A fifth-grade leadership team formed and developed recycling areas and signage, as well as taught fellow students about waste reduction and sustainable waste management at a school assembly. Students worked with town and school officials to create a program for single-stream recycling and food waste diversion in the cafeteria. That program has expanded to diverting unused liquids to an anaerobic digestion facility; donating unopened food to classrooms and the Wellesley Food Pantry; and recycling plastics, cardboard, aluminum, and paper. During 2018, each week the school donated about 29 pounds of excess food and diverted about 84 pounds of liquid food waste from the trash.

"I love that the concept and passion for the Food Recovery Program came from our students, as a fifth grade Student Council project. Our whole school community and town enthusiastically supported the idea and four years later continue to work hard to sustain this initiative. Our students are proud to participate in the Food Recovery Challenge." - Toni Jolley, School Principal

Signature Bread, Chelsea, MA was recognized nationally by EPA in the category of Data-driven Winner, Food Manufacturing. The company has held a long-term commitment to reducing its impact on the environment through reducing waste. The company has pursued projects including diverting dough and bread waste to composting operations or livestock feed; using a food waste compactor with an integrated scale to measure waste; and working with food banks and other local hunger relief organizations to find creative ways to donate excess bread. In 2018, Signature Breads processed over 3,000 tons of bread and dough into animal feed, and over a longer period of time they have donated over 4 tons of frozen bread to hunger relief organizations.

"Our belief has been to continuously look for opportunities within our business to reduce our environmental footprint. Whether small acts or large, our goal is to focus on moving in a positive direction that does less harm, while doing more good." - Tony Rodriguez, President, Signature Breads

Regional EPA Recognition for Food Waste Recovery

EPA New England also recognized four organizations regionally for their food reduction efforts including:

Center for EcoTechnology, Inc., located in Florence, Mass. was recognized for a project occuring in Hartford County, Conn. The Center for EcoTechnology (CET) learned that a significant barrier to donating edible food is liability concerns from businesses, schools, hotels, and other institutions that have significant food waste. CET worked with Connecticut state agencies to produce "Food Donation by Connecticut Schools," a document with guidelines to help K-12 schools identify opportunities to donate food internally and externally. CET collaborated with the state agencies to ensure consistency across agency policies. The document consolidates federal and state regulations on share tables and partnerships with external food rescue organizations, including information on liability protection and health codes.

"CET is honored to receive this recognition for our work to reduce wasted food in partnership with EPA and many Connecticut and Hartford government agencies and businesses. The pioneering work among these partners is helping to advance better management of wasted food as a regular way of doing business in the region and across the country." - John Majercak, CET president

Island Grown Initiative, Vineyard Haven, Mass. was recognized for their Food Waste Reduction and Redirection Project, an island-wide effort on Martha's Vineyard that works with food that was once taken away as waste and gives it to the hungry or composts it. The project, funded partially by an EPA Healthy Community Grant, created a community report explaining the cost to municipal budgets and to the environment of disposing food waste off the island. The project also helped residents, schools and businesses reduce food waste and separate significantly more food waste from trash. As a result of this project, all town transfer stations now accept food waste, tripling food waste collection from the previous year. Four years ago, all of Martha's Vineyard food waste was shipped off the island as trash. The drastic change is largely due to the efforts of the Initiative and the island community which rallied around the idea that food waste is a valuable resource that can feed the island's hungry, hens, or soil.

"Over the past year, through the work of IGI, the food waste collection at the transfer stations has gone from picking up a few toters per week in a pickup truck at three location, to bustling food waste drop-off centers at all six Island Local Drop-Offs. The expansion of IGI's composting program has demonstrated the demand for the service on-island. Now waste haulers are on board and the Martha's Vineyard Resource and Recovery District is looking at the potential of acquiring an in-vessel at their location." - Donald Hatch, District Manager, Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District

Rhode Island Department of Health, Providence, R.I. was recognized for their "Rhode to End Hunger Initiative" in 2018 to promote food donation during department inspections and other outreach opportunities to restaurants and other food service organizations. In the Initiative, the department became the first state agency to use the MEANS Database, a nonprofit food rescue platform. The statewide effort connects food donors with local organizations to eliminate food insecurity. The department's trained food safety inspectors continue to partner with public health scholars, community partners and the MEANS Database team on the Rhode to End Hunger. The initiative prevented 30,680 pounds of food from being disposed in Rhode Island's Central Landfill in 2019. This effort has been successful due to connections built with local and national agencies.

"Rhode Islanders deserve access to healthy, wholesome food, no matter what zip code they live in." - Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the R.I. Department of Health

Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, Montpelier, Vermont was recognized by EPA New England because, since 2004, the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District (CVSWMD) has worked with its 27 schools to implement food scrap hauling and food waste prevention services. The District's 2019 project, "Food Waste Reduction for Greener Schools in Central Vermont," focused directly on reducing wasted edible food and milk in schools in five Vermont towns: Barre Town, Bradford, East Montpelier, Montpelier, and Williamstown. During the 2018-19 school year, participating schools decreased food waste by an average of 17.4 percent and milk waste by 41 percent. Every school surveyed also reduced the portion of food disposed of in their trash, and participating schools as a group decreased the weight of food in the trash by 45 percent.

- "This project helped us refine our methods for measuring wasted food and showed that several strategies for reducing waste can actually work. We look forward to bringing these successes to more schools in the future." - Brenna Toman, School Zero Waste Coordinator

Background

In 2018, EPA New England worked with 53 New England-based Food Recovery Challenge participants to reduce wasted food, by diverting approximately 50,000 tons of food for donation or composting.

Food is a valuable resource. Efforts to reduce food waste and ensure excess food doesn't go to waste are needed now more than ever. The innovation these businesses are showcasing can serve as examples as the nation works together to address the COVID-19 public health emergency. Over 1,000 businesses, governments and organizations participated in EPA's Food Recovery Challenge in 2019. Participants prevented or diverted over 815,000 tons of food from entering landfills or incinerators, saving participants up to $42.3 million in avoided landfill tipping fees. The strategies used by FRC organizations to reduce wasting food, plus those implemented by individuals, communities and public-private partnerships, will bring the United States closer to meeting the National goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030 or to 109 pounds of waste food per person per year.

Food waste is the single largest type of waste thrown away each year in our daily trash. In 2017, more than 40 million tons of food waste was generated. Food waste adversely impacts the economy, our communities and the environment by wasting the resources used to grow and transport food. At the same time, approximately 11 percent of America's households had difficulty providing enough food for all of their family members in 2018. Hungry people in need would benefit from the redirection of nutritious, wholesome food that would have otherwise been thrown away. The strategies used by Food Recovery Challenge organizations, plus those implemented by individuals, communities and public-private partnerships help to lessen these impacts and bring the United States closer to meeting the national goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.

Nationally, EPA recognizes Food Recovery Challenge participants and endorsers with awards in two categories: data-driven and narrative. The data-driven award recipients achieved the highest percent increases in their sector comparing year to year data. Narrative award winners made notable achievements in the areas of source reduction, leadership, innovation, education and outreach, and endorsement.

More Information

Food Recovery Challenge national and regional award winners: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-results-and-award-winners

National food loss and waste reduction goal: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/call-action-stakeholders-united-states-food-loss-waste-2030-reduction

U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-food-loss-and-waste-2030-champions

USEPA New England: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/wasted-food-programs-and-resources-across-united-states#1