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EPA’s Food Stewardship education efforts aim to engage the faith community on protecting the environment through reducing food waste. As a food steward, you can lead your faith organization to reduce the amount of food wasted, donate excess food, and/or compost as a meaningful way to protect the environment and support neighbors.
Faith communities understand the importance of caring for their neighbors and protecting our shared environment for both current and future generations. Food stewards contribute to this work by leading their faith communities in food recovery efforts, in their homes and at their houses of worship.
Food stewards feed people, not landfills
In 2017, more than 30 million tons of food waste went to landfills.1 When excess food, leftover food, and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and produce methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.2 When food is wasted, the resources used to produce it, such as water, energy, labor, pesticides, fertilizers, and land, are also lost. In addition to the environmental benefits, by keeping wholesome and nutritious food in our communities and out of our landfills, we can help support the many American households that don’t have regular access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. In 2018, 37.2 million people lived in food-insecure households.3 Worldwide, more than 820 million people do not have enough to eat.4 Much of the food sent to landfills is safe, wholesome food that could have been donated to feed people.
Faith communities can take several steps to recover more food during regular activities. Just like a household or business, a house of worship can reduce its food waste through better planning for meals or events, smart storage, and composting. Faith groups can also donate good quality excess or unused food.
Reducing, donating, and composting excess food is the right thing to do, both to protect the environment and care for people. These actions divert wholesome food from landfills and combustion with energy recovery facilities, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. They also help provide good, wholesome food to food pantries, kitchens, and directly to the world’s most vulnerable.
Learn the basics about reducing food waste and download the Food Stewards Toolkit for printable resources for starting a food stewards team at your house of worship. In the toolkit, you can learn more about how to:
- Modify Food Purchases –Determine how much food is actually needed. Buying less food means wasting less food. Be mindful of the ingredients and leftovers you have on hand before going to the market. You will waste less and may even find a new recipe in the process.
- Donate –Donation not only keeps wholesome food out of landfills, it also feeds those who need it most. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 37 million people in the United States live in food insecure households3 - meaning they were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. Think about donating extra food to shelters or food banks or using donated food to feed your congregation.
- Compost – Not all food waste is edible; however, food scraps and spoiled food do not belong in the landfill. Find community gardens that compost or start your own composting site. Adding compost to your soil improves its structure, helps it absorb and hold moisture, supplies slow-release nutrients to plants and reduces erosion. An integral part of sustainable gardening, composting helps you create a vibrant, healthy and beautiful garden while conserving water and energy and reducing pollution and waste.
- Get others involved –Whether it’s moldy cheese, limp celery or left overs in the back of the fridge, chances are you’re not alone in wasting food. Wasted food is a problem with profound financial and environmental impacts. Talk to your faith community and form a food steward fellowship. Friends, family, local businesses, and congregations can all take steps to reduce wasted food.
Share your story –EPA wants to hear from you. Your success stories can educate and inspire others to take action. Share your story on the actions you are taking to reduce wasted food in your community. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and use #FoodSteward and #NoWastedFood in your social media.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency, Food: Material-Specific Data
- United States Environmental Protection Agency, Overview of Greenhouse Gases
- United States Department of Agriculture, Food Security in the U.S.: Key Statistics and Graphics
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019