Working with Table to Table in various aspects and programs over the years, it was natural for Iowa City to reach out to the organization once more when looking for ways to increase food waste diversion within the community.
A program called Love Food, Fight Waste started this year to further the education of residents in both Iowa City and Johnson County on simple ways to help eliminate food waste and keep it out of both the landfill and compost pile.
Looking at statistics from 2017, approximately 25% of what entered the local landfill was food waste. There are many wasted resources — from agricultural to business — that go into food waste. When food waste is put into a landfill, it produces methane gas as it decomposes, which contributes to climate issues. One goal of Iowa City is to help positively affect climate change by reducing methane emissions. Even when food waste is sent to a compost facility, there are still many resources wasted.
In honor of the national Stop Food Waste Day on April 27, Iowa City officially launched its Love Food, Fight Waste program. The first three months have very specific topics to aid in the public’s education. May’s topic was “Know Your Best By, Use By and Sell By Dates.” June’s topic was “Understand the Types of Food Waste.” July’s topic was “Buy the Right Amount of Food.”
According to Wilch, “The program is very young, and we are just starting to build traction with it. We anticipate it to be a year long, but it may go even longer.”
These three initial topics were chosen intentionally to give residents getting started with the program a solid essential foundation to make more conscious choices for eliminating and reducing food waste. These topics cover simple, practical ways any resident can help positively affect the reduction of food waste at home. One of the simplest suggestions includes eating a snack before going to the grocery store.
Following these three initial topics, Love Food, Fight Waste will move on to more complicated topics and collaborate with other programs throughout the community. These collaborations will help to broaden the audience for the program. The city is also teaming up with the schools to include fighting food waste as part of the school curriculum in September. Wilch mentioned that further topics are being left open-ended and can change from month to month depending on how the program evolves and what the community needs.
Each month, the city communicated with the residents on fighting food waste via city newsletters, the city website and several social media pages. The hope is also to have an archived page on the Table to Table website so, if an individual joins the program later on, they can still view previous topics. The Love Food, Fight Waste program will also further its reach as other local organizations partner to promote the program. As local events take place pertaining to food waste, the program will also participate in these to continue to reach more residents.
Since Table to Table has been an active, valuable asset to the Iowa City community for over 25 years, Nicki Ross, Table to Table executive director, believed their specific community is primed to want to reduce food waste. One of the biggest struggles she has seen is the ability to communicate to members of the community that the food being collected from grocery stores, trucking companies, etc. is still good and edible, even if it is close to or past the sell by or best by date. This is another important aspect of creating a strong foundation for the program with the three initial topics.
Ross explained that this program “helps the city promote their commitment to reducing organic food waste, and it helps show the commitment of the community.” One of Ross’ additional goals is to “lift up the view of food and what is waste and trash and shift the narrative of food and dignity of food to make those, especially those food insecure, feel better about their food choices.”
The partnership between Iowa City employees and Table to Table employees is fairly equal. There is a small group of employees from each that split up the variety of tasks each month. They share equal collaboration in the program, and with a long history of good partnership between the two, it has made it easy to promote the good work of the program.
Ross has received excellent feedback from community members regarding the program — at least three or four emails each month. Some mention how the program simply reminds them to be more conscious about their food waste. She has also received unexpected positive responses from other organizations that help to meet food insecurity need within the community. Pantry directors have reached out asking for material to help support the Love Food, Fight Waste program in order to benefit those who use their own organizations.
“It has been such a rewarding experience to hear feedback from everyone in the community,” Ross commented.
Apart from the Love Food, Fight Waste program, Iowa City and Table to Table are also currently in the research stage of a pilot program that will install a piece of equipment to be used as a diversion method that will further help to rescue food waste at Table to Table. The goal is to reduce the volume of food waste by 90% and will result in a pre-compost product that can either go to the compost facility or be placed directly into a garden.
For a look at Iowa City’s program, topics and suggestions, visit www.icgov.org/lovefood.