Six Solutions to End food Waste
In 2015, a Mitchell Center multidisciplinary team identified eliminating food waste as the single most important issue to ensure a more sustainable waste system in Maine. In 2019, a new interdisciplinary team was funded to help identify triple-bottom-line solutions to end wasted food in Maine.
Following the Mitchell Center research approach, our team worked with Maine’s major food businesses and organizations including retailers, distributors, farmers, manufacturers, hospitality, hospitals, schools, Congresswoman Pingree’s office, and others to identify stakeholder-driven food waste solutions that would deliver major economic, social and environmental benefits for Maine. We combined this with best-practice research looking for successful global, national, and regional solutions to end food waste. Finally, we utilized the Maine DEP Food Recovery Hierarchy to ensure that our solutions followed the reduction/recovery/recycling hierarchy.
At this point, six (6) food waste solutions have been identified and the team is working with key stakeholders to develop and launch specific pilots related to each of the six solution areas. In total, the solutions propose a circular food system where the inherent value of food – the nutrients and energy – are never lost but rather is used to “feed” the next step in the circular food system: food is grown, food feeds people, food feeds livestock, food is recycled into compost which feeds the soil, which grows the food (see the graphic on the food recycling sign). The Solution pilots will ensure that food waste is reduced, triple bottom line goals are met or exceeded, and that the Solutions can successfully be expanded statewide.
Maine Food Waste and System Solutions
Solution 1: Enable all Maine producers to simply measure and track food usage
Solution 2: Create a centralized “Maine food rescue” system
Solution 3: Work with producers to build Maine consumer education and behavior around food waste
Solution 4: Build Maine’s food handling and processing infrastructure
Solution 5: Assist producers with donation education and incentives
Solution 6: Remove food waste from landfills, support producer waste diversion
Solution 1: Measure, Track, and Save
The objective of solution one is to build a simple yet effective, universal Maine business food waste reporting system to track, measure and report lbs. food waste over a time period, to identify and report the primary types of food waste, to identify and report the primary causes of food waste, and to develop specific sustainability solutions to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste.
If you’re looking for ways for your business to cut down on waste, contact the Mitchell Center team for more information.
Solution 2: Food Rescue Software System
Solution 3: Educaton
The goal of the solution three pilot is to educate the public on food waste. We are creating education plans for public schools to get involved with ending food waste. We have created a K-5 consumer food waste education and awareness campaign for Winslow Elementary School and Portland Public Elementary Schools (Talbot and Rowe) to inform Maine students and families about food waste and how to mitigate or avoid its production. We are also creating a high school consumer food waste education and awareness campaign to inform Maine students about food waste and the benefits of composting/food recycling at their school.
To get your school involved with ending food waste in Maine, contact the Mitchell Center.
Solution Three School Education Campaign Info Cards
25% of all household trash is food
Save money and keep food out of the trash by composting or donating unwanted food.
What is your favorite meal to eat for lunch at your school? Write about why you enjoy it or draw a picture to the left!
Solution 4: Saving Farm Surplus
Solution Four works with farmers and food processors to find a way to make farm surplus into edible foods. The objective is to look specifically at farm surplus because 30%-40% of food grown never leaves the farm. This could be either because farm machinery isn’t able to harvest everything, the food is not up to “beauty specs”, or it is just not able to be stored for long periods of time.
A survey has been submitted to local Maine farmers to gauge what they have for surplus and why that is. The results so far show that all farmers are experiencing a surplus, and this could be for multiple different reasons; Costs, labor, and storage seem to be the most present reasons for surplus.
What we have learned from them is that oftentimes farmers have a tight schedule of when to deal with surplus and that doesn’t always line up with the people collecting the surplus. Farmers need to deal with surplus quickly and often times volunteer gleaners can’t fit into the same schedule the farmer has.
Farmers are now looking for a way to deal with surplus other than plowing under the fields or feeding it to farm animals. Processors would also like access to this surplus because that is food going to waste, and food security agencies need this extra food to feed the hungry and they see farm surplus as a valuable asset going to waste.
If you have a farm surplus and need help finding ways to use your food, contact the Mitchell Center for more assistance