The Second Course / Food Waste & Composting: Part Two

part deux

Solutions to End Food Waste

Reducing food waste is a large task to tackle. It occurs at all levels, all the way from the farm to the table, so in order to reduce it we have to look at the big picture. The Environmental Protection Agency has developed a Food Recovery Hierarchy that is useful for breaking down some of the solutions we have currently for dealing with food waste. The first should be reducing the amount of food produce in the country, or looking at the reasons why this food is being labeled as “surplus”.


Feeding hungry people is the second best option, and that’s where Next Course – Food Recovery Network comes in! We work to directly move surplus food from retailers on campus to people in need in our local community. Imagine the impact we could have if all businesses integrated food recovery into their model. The possibilities are endless here.

If the food isn’t adequate for people, animals should be next in line. Food scraps like potato peels are a gourmet choice for hogs and thus stay in our food industry without ever seeing a landfill.

Food can even be used to create energy! Oils can be converted into fuel, and food scraps can be digested to recovery energy. Technology here is relatively new, but it’s growing.

Similarly, food waste can be converted into soil through the process of composting. We also compost food waste and paper waste products here at Drake by collecting scraps at the end of each meal in our two dining halls. The soil created through composting is nutrient rich and can put directly back into the ground to grow more food.

Some options that are no listed on the hierarchy that are imperative to consider:

  • Redistributing food. It’s hard to believe, but there is not as much as a food shortage in the world as you might believe. There are many complex issues leading to improper distribution of food such as the frequent phenomenon known as “food deserts” in America. A food desert is a region that has limited access to fresh, healthy food simply because of the way groceries stores and other food markets are distributed. High end grocery stores are more common in suburban areas than they are in lower income, inner city communities. If we can address the root causes of why these regions are unfairly serviced and possibly provide incentives for bringing fresh produce into the cities, we can make a huge difference.
  • Be educated on food date labels. Did you know there is little to no regulation on expiration dates placed on food products? Food companies logically will set dates well before the food actually goes bad, in order to take precaution. It is more than likely that the jug of milk set to be “best by Dec 8th”, will really be safe and taste perfectly fresh a week, or more after that date has passed.
  • Advocate for policy change addressing some of the core reasons behind food waste. On December 7th, this week, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced a bill in Congress aimed at reducing food waste in the United States. This bill, called the Food Recovery Act includes nearly two dozen provisions to bring down the high level of food waste across the nation. You can read more on her page here:

written by Laura Leben


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