The Connecticut Food Bank provides nutritious food to people in need, helping to both fight hunger and to reduce waste by rescuing food. Thanks to a new resource, we are doing more to assure that the foods we can’t distribute don’t take up space in landfills.
Last year, the Connecticut Food Bank received more than 29 million pounds of food through generous donations from food producers, retailers, distributors, and growers. Much of it reaches us because it is blemished, nearing expiration, or otherwise unsaleable, but it is still nutritious. Unfortunately, not everything we receive can be distributed. Sometimes there are foods that are too far along in spoilage or have packaging that is compromised beyond simple blemishes. “We receive amazing donations,” said Carolyn Russell, Connecticut Food Bank Senior Director of Food Sourcing and Distribution. “But a truckload of fresh fruits or vegetables will include some that are crushed or spoiled. And some damaged packages of food can’t be considered safe for consumption. It’s the nature of our work.”
Volunteers provide valuable hours at the food bank, sorting donated foods, culling what must be “wasted,” and repackaging what will be distributed through our network of partners and programs.
For several years, the Connecticut Food Bank worked to separate fresh foods unfit for human consumption and route them to a local farmer for animal feed. This was not possible for packaged foods. But the opening of a bio composting facility in Southington, Connecticut, has provides us with a resource to recycle both fresh and packaged foods for the good of the environment and lower waste costs.
Of the 29 million pounds of food received last year, the Connecticut Food Bank was able to rescue all but approximately 3%. Approximately 2% of that waste was routed to bio composting or used for animal feed, leaving only 1% as waste. This shift reduced our trash tipping fees last year by more than 50%.
“The bio composting process turns waste into energy and compost products,” said Craig Keller, Connecticut Food Bank Senior Director of Operations. “We reduce trash and costs and providing resources that support clean energy and help enrich soil for crop growth. Everyone wins.”
Through a process called anaerobic digestion, fresh and packaged foods are decomposed in an oxygen-free system that produces biogas that generates electricity or is further processed into natural gas or transportation fuel, according to a website for Quantum Biopower, the operator of the Southington facility. The by-products of the digestion process become soil amendments and animal bedding.
“Our mission is to feed people in need, and to be the leader in that mission” said Connecticut Food Bank CEO Valarie Shultz-Wilson.” But when we can innovate in ways that reduce costs and support healthier communities, we increase the good we can do in our world.”