Hy-Vee supermarkets take on U.S. food waste problem


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Hy-Vee stores have announced a program offering “ugly” produce in order to combat food waste in the United States. (Sarah R/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | February 9, 2017

Iowa’s Hy-Vee supermarket chain announced a new initiative to reduce food waste last month.

The employee-owned corporation began offering “ugly” produce in nearly all of its 242 stores in mid-January. “Ugly” produce are those vegetables and fruits that typically are not sold at market due to industry size and shape preferences. Hy-Vee partnered with Robinson Fresh to offer its original line of Misfits® produce. Depending on what is available seasonally, four to six Misfits® produce items are delivered to Hy-Vee stores where shoppers can purchase them at a discounted price. The program’s produce offerings include peppers, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and apples, among other fruits and vegetables. On average, consumers can expect to pay 30 percent less for the “ugly” items.

John Griesenbrock is Hy-Vee’s vice president of produce/HealthMarkets. He said, “As a company with several focused environmental efforts, we feel it’s our responsibility to help educate consumers and dispel any misperceptions about produce that is not cosmetically perfect.”

The company’s press release notes that a movement to reduce food waste through the purchase of less-than-perfect produce has spread across Europe and is picking up steam in the U.S. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply goes to waste. Food waste makes up the vast majority of waste found in municipal land fills and quickly generates methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than CO2 during its first two decades in the atmosphere.

Hy-Vee’s Misfit® program supports the USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency effort to achieve a 50 percent food waste reduction nationwide by 2030.

“We understand that there is product left in the field because farmers don’t think there’s a market for it,” said Robinson Fresh general manager Hunter Winton. He added, “With the Misfits program, farmers have an outlet to sell more produce and customers have an opportunity to save money and help reduce waste.”

On The Radio – USDA, EPA aim to curb food waste


food recovery
(Food Recovery Hierarchy/Environmental Protection Agency)
Jenna Ladd | July 18, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment covers a call to action released by the USDA and EPA to reduce food waste nationwide. 

Transcript: USDA and EPA announce food waste reduction goal

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced the first food waste reduction goals in U.S. history.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Released on July 1st, the U.S. 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal: A Call to Action by Stakeholders seeks to galvanize farmers, food manufacturers, grocers, consumers, and policy makers to reduce food waste by 50 percent before 2030. The initiative outlines best practices as identified by stakeholders including the creation of markets for aesthetically unappealing produce, implementation of community composting systems, and the development of new food storage technology that would prevent spoilage. The document is the direct result of a Food Recovery Summit that was held last November in Charleston, South Carolina.

Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jen Jordan organizes the commercial composting program at the Iowa City Landfill.

Jordan: “Fifteen percent of what goes into the Iowa City landfill is food waste so the city is definitely on board with efforts to help individuals and businesses reduce food waste, and not only to save the food waste from going to the landfill but to save money as well.”

Participation in the national 50% reduction goal is voluntary, but states like Massachusetts and Vermont have already instituted commercial food waste bans. Food waste makes up a majority of U.S. landfills and quickly generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. EPA notes that food loss reduction would help to mitigate climate change, address food insecurity, and save producers money.

For more information about food waste reduction in the U.S., visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus dot org.

For the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Study finds consumers, retailers waste about half the produce grown in the U.S.


(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | July 15, 2016

New research suggests that as much as half of the food produce in the United States is wasted.

“demand for unattainable perfection” in the appearance of fruits and vegetables is largely to blame for the vast amount of wasted food. Fruits and vegetables are often led in the field to rot, fed to livestock, or shipped directly to landfills when deemed unsellable because of cosmetic imperfections. According to government data, about 60 million tons of produce, worth about $160 billion, is wasted by American retailers and consumers annually. Globally, about 1.6 billion tons, valued at about $1 trillion, is wasted each year.

Despite these findings, researchers recognize that there is currently no clear way to account for food loss in U.S. However, the World Resources Institute and other thinktanks are developing methods to more accurately account for food waste. Wasteful food production practices are detrimental to efforts to fight global hunger and climate change.

Last year U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack called for a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. However, one expert argues that Vilsack’s goal could have a negative effect on food economics. Roger Gordon – founder of the Food Cowboy – told The Guardian that a 50 percent reduction in food waste could reduce the profit margin of produce at grocery stores by half. He added that fresh produce accounts for about 15 percent of supermarket profits.

The University of Northern Iowa’s Iowa Waste Reduction Center was established in 1988 with the intention of helping businesses reduce food waste in the Hawkeye State. In 2013, the center released a report entitled “Iowa Food Waste Reduction Program Market Analysis.”

EPA teams up with religious groups to reduce food waste


Food waste piles up in this dumpster in Vacouver, British Columbia. (Flickr)
Food waste piles up in this dumpster in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Stephen Rees/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | January 20, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is teaming up with religious groups of all faiths to redirect food on to the plates of the hungry as opposed to landfills.

EPA unveiled the Food Steward’s Pledge on Monday. Not only would this initiative help to feed the hungry but it would also reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that in 2013, 14.3 percent of households in the U.S. did not have regular access to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle. Additionally , the United State Environmental Programme estimates that 870 million malnourished people worldwide could be fed by wasted food.

“Faith communities exemplify caring for the well-being of all people and are leaders in being responsible stewards of our resources for current and future generations,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a press release. “Reducing, donating, and composting excess food is a triple win that protects the environment, cares for the global human family, and saves organizations and Americans money.”

More than 1200 calories of food is wasted per person per day in the U.S. which amounts to roughly $1,600 per year for a family of four.

This initiative is part of a bigger plan by EPA and USDA to cut food waste in half by 2030.

To sign the Food Steward’s Pledge, click here.

Iowa schools aim to reduce food waste


The University of Iowa, Coe and Luther colleges will join the University of Northern Iowa in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s national initiative to reduce food waste.

Iowa, Coe and Luther were among nine universities that EPA said today will join its Food Recovery Challenge. The effort is aimed at encouraging businesses, organizations and institutions to actively participate in food waste prevention, surplus food donation, and food waste recycling activities.

Learn more about the EPA’s program here.

On the Radio: Iowa City businesses use composting to reduce waste


Compost pile. Photo by bunchofpants, Flickr.
Compost pile. Photo by bunchofpants, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses the efforts of Iowa City businesses to reduce waste through composting.

Businesses in and around Iowa City are using composting to reduce their impact on the environment.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

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Kinnick Stadium recycling plan successful during first game


Photo by scottfidd, Flickr.

During last Saturday’s football game at Kinnick Stadium, the University of Iowa’s new recycling efforts were very successful.

More than two tons of recyclable materials and 620 pounds of food waste were collected. This reduced the amount of waste that would have gone to the landfill by 40 percent.

The recycling team aims to increase the amount of waste diverted from the landfill to 60 percent this season.

Much of the food waste gathered is being used for composting.

Read more here.