Food Waste Finds a New Home in Ithaca

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Ithaca College donates leftover produce and food from their dining halls at the end of each semester.

By Breana Cacciotti

ITHACA – Going through boxes of fresh produce and other food from Wegmans, Linda Storrer sorts out the bad food for compost and separates the rest for a local food pantry to pick up.

Most of the food taken by the food pantries may be close to the expiration date, or has a small fault that might cause shoppers to leave it on the shelves even though it is still good. After the food pantry receives the donated food, they serve it as soon as they can before it goes bad.

Storrer has been volunteering at Friendship Donations Network (FDN), an Ithaca non-profit that redistributes food that might otherwise go to waste, for almost four years.

Her passion for saving food first came when she was a mail carrier and began noticing how much people throw out every week.

“On garbage day, I would be appalled at the volume of stuff people would put out on their front curb,” Storrer said.

She explained that even though she knew not all of it was wasted food, she still wanted to make a difference.

Decreasing Food Waste

February 2015 study released by The Waste & Resources Action Programme and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate shows the annual value of global food waste could rise by around $200 billion by the year 2030 if nothing is done to reduce the waste.

The goal of FDN is to help reduce food waste on a local level, while being able to serve the saved food to those who otherwise would not have access to such healthy foods. FDN receives leftover food from over 15 donors, with Wegmans as their top contributor. Volunteers like Storrer sort the donated food, and local food pantries and other programs in the area  pick it up.

FDN distributes around 1,000 pounds of donated food every day and serves around 2,000 people each week at food programs in the community.

Meaghan Sheehan Rosen, program coordinator at FDN, says once the local colleges go on break, the dining halls donate truckloads full of leftover food and it would not be possible to distribute it all without the help of their volunteers. “All of the leftover food would have just gone into the dump, so moments like that make you realize the significance of redistributing it,” Rosen said.

What the Consumer Can Do

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 96 percent of excess food gets thrown away, leading to over 36 million tons of discarded food waste in landfills.

One of the main causes of increased food waste is the consumer’s personal choices, says Mark Darling, Sustainability Programs coordinator at Ithaca College.

“Consumers want variety, so when they are given more options to choose from there is more food left over, causing more wasted food,” Darling said.

Darling suggests that to reduce food waste, consumers need to start making smarter decisions about what they buy at the grocery store. “Better meal planning, and more frequent shopping for fresh produce instead of stocking up for the long term,” he said will help reduce waste.

In Storrer’s house, she says the freezer is the most useful for storing food so it doesn’t go to waste. “It’s a simple thing to do, putting food in the freezer instead of the fridge so it will last longer and you can look in your freezer before going shopping to see what you already have,” Storrer said.

When going to the farmer’s market, she says she tries to buy the dented produce that others may stay away from, and then she uses it right away so it doesn’t get wasted.

Small steps like these are what Darling suggests will keep food from going to waste.

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