Since 2021, the IFSCC has planned robust ICAW programming that combines in-person and hands-on experiences with virtual discussions and presentations to reach diverse and widespread audiences at all stages of life and composting experience. The 2023 line-up includes a day of “Adventures in Composting” with farmers, gardeners, and backyard composters around the state; a virtual International Cafe at which composting stories from around the world will be shared; a virtual Legislative Lunch & Learn; and multiple opportunities throughout the week to attend library programs and obtain finished compost.
As previously reported on the ISTC blog, the Farm to Food Bank program recently developed six case studies highlighting work with farmers during the 2022 growing season. Each case study includes a summary of the project, as well as lessons learned. Pilot project models included food flowing from farm to food bank, farm to food pantry, and utilizing aggregation sites.
Now the program has released “Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program 2022 Year in Review.” This report outlines all the different pilot projects that occurred in 2022 along with key takeaways. It also details central challenges and opportunities that exist in expanding this statewide program. The report was authored by the ISTC Technical Assistance Program (TAP) Zero Waste Program, in collaboration with Steve Ericson of Feeding Illinois.
Be sure to check ISTC’s social media platforms during April 10-16th, as we highlight some of the past and present work TAP is doing related to food waste. We’ll also share links to relevant blog posts, websites, videos, and other resources to help you on your food waste reduction journey. If you’re not already following us on social media, you can connect with us on:
Throughout the week, several partners across the U.S. will host webinars to inspire action to reduce food waste. For example:
Local Solutions: Food Waste Prevention Week. On Monday, April 10 at noon Central time, join the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for a presentation featuring Food For the Soul, Hamilton County R3Source, Food Shift, and Alameda County StopWaste. County recycling experts and food rescuers will talk about valuing food, ensuring good food gets eaten, and how they share their stories with the community. Register here.
The Sustainable Management of Food on the U.S.-México Border. On Wednesday, April 12 at 12:30 PM Central, U.S. EPA Region 9 will present on food waste prevention, recovery, and recycling strategies, policies, and practices for and by border-adjacent communities. Register here.
School Food Recovery: Inventory Management, Share Tables, Smarter Lunchrooms and Food Donations. Also on April 12, at 1 PM Central, you can learn about food recovery in Florida schools. Guest speakers from Orange County Public Schools will provide key takeaways from their efforts to increase consumption, decrease waste, and donate excess food. Register here. [Note: Topics covered relate to TAP’s past Green Lunchroom Challenge project and efforts on a food waste reduction toolkit for IL Schools, though neither ISTC nor the Wasted Food Action Alliance is involved in planning or presenting this webinar.]
The Farm to Food Bank project recently published six case studies of their work with farmers during the 2022 growing season. Each case study includes a summary of the project, as well as lessons learned.
During the 2022 growing season, these six partners delivered over 975,000 pounds of surplus and off-grade fresh produce to food banks and pantries throughout Illinois.
Getting an early, off-season start with farmers markets and growers is essential. It allows farmers markets to introduce the program when growers aren’t as busy. It also allows food banks, food pantries, and growers to have conversations about what crops to plant, especially in areas of the state where the communities are diverse and may have preferences for specific types of produce.
Using reusable plastic crates prevents both packaging and food waste.
Growers can champion the program and recruit other growers.
Farmers can be aggregators. Having one farmer handle communications on behalf of several growers makes it easier for food banks to coordinate delivery and receive a variety of products.
Pairing farmers new to growing specialty crops with more experienced growers may help overcome challenges to participation.
Matching up harvest schedules with food bank pick-up schedules is essential.
When partnering growers directly with food pantries, additional considerations include:
how close in proximity they are to each other.
ensuring that food delivery and distribution schedules are in synch.
relying on food pantries to pick up at the farm presents challenges. Pantries often do not have adequate staff, capacity, or access to large vehicles, which means that some food gets left at the farm.
On November 17, 2022 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $100 million in grants for recycling infrastructure and recycling education and outreach projects throughout the country.
Entities eligible to apply for funding through the SWIFR Political Subdivisions Grant Program include “Political subdivisions” of states and territories, such as counties, cities, towns, parishes, and similar units of governments that have executive and legislative functions to be political subdivisions of states and territories.
Applications Due: January 16, 2023 Notice of Intent to Apply Deadline: December 15, 2022 Funding Available: The minimum individual award amount is $500,000 and the maximum individual award is $4,000,000 for the grant period. Grant Period: Up to 3 years
Materials and waste streams considered under this announcement include:
Municipal solid waste (MSW), including plastics, organics, paper, metal, glass, etc. and construction and demolition (C&D) debris.
In addition, materials and waste streams considered include the management pathways of source reduction, reuse, sending materials to material recovery facilities, composting, industrial uses (e.g., rendering, anaerobic digestion (AD)), and feeding animals.
All applications must achieve one or more of the following objectives:
Establish, increase, expand, or optimize collection and improve materials management infrastructure.
Fund the creation and construction of tangible infrastructure, technology, or other improvements to reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream.
Establish, increase, expand, or optimize capacity for materials management.
Establish, improve, expand, or optimize end-markets for the use of recycled commodities.
Demonstrate a significant and measurable increase in the diversion, recycling rate, and quality of materials collected for municipal solid waste.
Eligible activities include (but are not limited to):
Innovative solutions and/or programs that provide or increase access to prevention, reuse, and recycling in areas that currently do not have access; including development of and/or upgrades to drop-off and transfer stations (including but not limited to a hub-and-spoke model in rural communities), etc.
The purchase of recycling equipment, including but not limited to sorting equipment, waste metering, trucks, processing facilities, etc.
Upgrades to material recovery facilities (MRFs) such as optical sorters, artificial intelligence, etc.
Development of and/or upgrades to composting facilities or anaerobic digesters to increase capacity for organics recycling.
Development of and/or upgrades to curbside collection programs or drop-off stations for organics.
Development of and/or upgrades to reuse infrastructure such as online reuse platforms, community repair spaces, technology and equipment to improve materials management reuse options, food donation, and upcycling, staging areas for material reuse/donation, reuse warehouses, and reuse centers, and electronic waste and computer recycling and refurbishing.
Recycling Education and Outreach (REO) Grant Program
The REO Grant Program includes $30 million in funding for projects to improve consumer education and outreach on waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and composting. The grants aim to reduce waste generation, decrease contamination in the recycling stream, and increase recycling rates across the country in a manner that is equitable for all.
Eligible applicants include:
U.S. States, including Washington, D.C.
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
Federally recognized tribal governments.
Native Hawaiian organizations, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Applications Due: January 16, 2023 Notice of Intent to Apply Deadline: December 15, 2022 Funding Available: The minimum individual award floor is $250,000, and the maximum individual award ceiling is $2,000,000 for the grant period. Grant Period: Up to 3 years
Materials within the scope of this grant program include commonly recycled materials, such as aluminum and steel containers, glass, cardboard paper, and plastics, as well as food, organics (yard and tree trimmings, wood, etc.), textiles, batteries, and electronics. Also within the scope of this grant program are education and outreach activities that prevent or reduce waste by reducing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing, recycling, composting, or using anaerobic digestor systems to treat these types of materials or to reduce related contamination.
All projects must encourage the collection of recyclable materials and must achieve one or more of the following objectives:
Inform the public about residential or community recycling programs.
Provide information about the recycled materials that are accepted as part of a residential or community recycling program that provides for the separate collection of residential solid waste from recycled material.
Increase collection rates and decrease contamination in residential and community recycling programs.
Eligible activities include (but are not limited to):
Public service announcements.
Door-to-door education and outreach campaigns.
Social media and digital outreach.
An advertising campaign on recycling awareness.
The development and dissemination of:
a toolkit for a municipal and commercial recycling program.
information on the importance of quality in the recycling stream.
information on the benefits of recycling.
information on what happens to materials after the materials are placed in the bin.
Businesses recycling outreach.
Bin, cart, and other receptacle labeling and signs.
Community ambassador education programs or training the trainer programs.
Other education and outreach activities to improve waste prevention, reuse, and recycling, and reduce contamination, such as evaluations and evidence-based messaging and strategies associated with preventing or reducing waste and improving reuse, repair, refurbish, and remanufacture of materials.
What do the members of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program’s zero waste team fear the most? Unnecessary waste! Think about all the products and packaging sent off to be prematurely buried in landfills before their useful “lives” are truly over–it makes our blood run cold. To avoid being haunted by the ghosts of poorly managed materials, check out the following Halloween waste diversion programs to keep waste out of landfills.
Please note that links and/or mentions of organizations or businesses are provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the Technical Assistance Program, ISTC, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois.
Pumpkin Smash Events
Did you know that IL leads the nation in production of pumpkins? Did you further know that pumpkins are mostly water? A great deal of labor, land, water, and other resources are invested in growing, harvesting, and distributing pumpkins in our state, and many of them end up being used for brief decorations that may wind up in landfills after Halloween has passed.
When you’re hosting a Halloween party or having kids trick-or-treat at the homes of people you know and trust, there are opportunities to pass out/receive homemade or minimally-packaged bulk treats and reduce the amount of plastic packaging associated with Halloween festivities. However, the reality is that many people pass out candy to or collect candy from strangers; plus, many of us like to purchase Halloween candy to share with coworkers or our family during the month of October as part of celebrating. The result is lots of plastic packaging ending up in landfills because such material is not collected in typical recycling programs because the form or components of the packaging make them difficult to recycle. There are however, a couple of options that can help divert the seasonal increase in candy wrappers from the landfill.
Rubicon, in collaboration with the National Wildlife Foundation, annually offers a Trick or Trash program, in which schools, independent small businesses, and community organizations can order FREE candy wrapper collection boxes. Organizations receive their collection boxes through the UPS Carbon Neutral Shipment program, set them up and collect wrappers until their box is full. Then, boxes are sealed and mailed back using a pre-affixed label. Each participating organization gets a certificate of recycling confirming how many wrappers they diverted from landfill. The recycled plastic can be used to make “doggie bags” used at animal shelters for animal waste collection. See https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/how-it-works/ for more information, and https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/#block_5aee8cc625f6cfa2532fd2b387a4e675 to order a free box. Educational materials, including lesson plans, are available at https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/education/. Note that teachers and organizations are limited to one free box to ensure that more people across the country can participate, and you should allow at least a week for shipping. So if you order a free box now, you might plan to collect wrappers right after Halloween, rather than at Halloween events. Individuals or larger business might choose to purchase a box for participation.
Learn more about reducing and reusing on Halloween
Most people have thought of checking thrift stores for reused costumes or costume elements, and parents of multiple kids know the beauty of hand-me-downs. But did you know that the second Saturday in October is National Costume Swap Day? Make plans to check online for costume swaps in your area next year, or consider organizing your own event. Alternatively, The Halloween Helpersis a non-profit organization that provides gently used costumes to other non-profit agencies that serve children. Check out their website for information on hosting or participating in a costume drive. A similar group, ‘WEEN Dream, is a non-profit that gives free Halloween costumes to children in need. See their website for information on donating your old costumes or applying for costumes in future years.
Recently, project partners released the initial feasibility study report from the first year of this project, entitled Exploring the Development of an Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program. The report is available in IDEALS, the University of Illinois’ institutional repository.
Through interviews, surveys, focus groups, and pilot projects it became clear that a Farm to Food Bank program would be welcomed by both the farming and food banking communities in Illinois. Such programs are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations [at 7 CFR 251.10(j)] as “the harvesting, processing, packaging, or transportation of unharvested, unprocessed, or unpackaged commodities donated by agricultural producers, processors, or distributors for use by Emergency Feeding Organizations (EFOs)” – i.e., hunger relief agencies. Several such programs exist throughout the United States, though not in every state (for examples, see the “Lessons from Other Farm to Food Bank Programs” section of this report). While commonly referred to as Farm to Food Bank, these programs can also operate as Farm to Food Pantry programs.
While this is an ongoing research project, this report serves to demonstrate research efforts undertaken from December 2020 – February 2022 that have led to this conclusion along with identifying strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities, and recommendations for a statewide Farm to Food Bank program.
Recommendations for 2022 and beyond include the following:
1. A Farm to Food Bank program should have three primary goals:
➢ Support farmers by providing a secondary market for off-grade and surplus products.
➢ Increase access to local, nutritious foods.
➢ Reduce food waste/surplus on farms and associated energy and resources.
2. Equity must be an essential part of the program.
3. Seek out partnerships with existing aggregation and processing centers.
4. Seek out partnerships with new food pantries.
5. Make Feeding Illinois and their member food banks a staple at ag-focused and food access events.
6. Increase communication between food banks.
7. Ensure buy-in from food banks and food pantries.
8. Improve capacity and resources at the food pantries.
9. Connect a Farm to Food Bank program with existing
10. Diversify funding sources. Develop an advocacy plan to pursue public and private support.
11. Establish an advisory board to guide the actions of the Farm to Food Bank program.
12. Develop guidance and educational programs for farmers.
13. Measure success by more than just pounds of donated food.
14. Hire a dedicated employee to manage the Farm to Food Bank program.
15. Adapt the program as needed.
16. Continue piloting Farm to Food Bank strategies around the state.
While these recommendations can serve to guide Farm to Food Bank efforts, further research is needed to uncover opportunities and test collection and distribution strategies. ISTC and Feeding Illinois will collaborate to continue this research for the remainder of 2022 into 2023. The project team will continue outreach and engagement efforts to both increase participation and gather feedback on the program. They will also continue to work with Rendleman Orchards, which participated in the first pilot project of the study, as well as conducting additional pilot projects. In the coming year, ISTC and Feeding Illinois will also work with farmers markets around the state to test aggregation strategies.
Did you know that the first full week of May is celebrated annually in the US and other countries as International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW)? Composting is a way of recycling organic materials (e.g. grass clippings and other yard waste, as well as food scraps) to create a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Things that have grown break down and support the health of soil and thus new growth–that’s the idea behind the theme of this year’s ICAW: Recipe for Regeneration: Compost.
The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC), a not-for-profit organization that advances diversion and composting of organics in Illinois through advocacy, program implementation, market and business development, policy, and outreach, has lined up a variety of events to celebrate ICAW. The following are highlights of IFSC’s ICAW events, beginning Sunday, May 1 at 9 AM:
Sunday, May 1, 9 – 11 AM, The Mike Nowak Radio Show – Learn how composting and using finished compost regenerate Illinois soil to grow nutritious food with friends from the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County and the Vernon Hills Park District’s Community Garden.
ISTC and Feeding Illinois partnered with Rendleman Orchards during the 2021 growing season to ensure no fruit went to waste. Through the USDA’s Farm to Food Bank grant, Feeding Illinois was able to pay Rendleman Orchards its picking and pack-out costs (PPO) which represent the farm’s costs to harvest and package the product and enabled the donation of the peaches, nectarines, and apples. The fruit was either off-spec, meaning it did not qualify to be sold in typical primary markets due to size/weight/blemishes, or surplus, meaning that the farmer did not have a buyer or market outlet for the fruit. The project team helped Rendleman Orchards avoid waste, recoup their costs, and provide fresh local nutritious fruit to Illinois neighbors in need.
Rendleman Orchards started by providing 48 cases of peaches to Tri-State Food Bank’s Vienna, IL hub. After initial success, St. Louis Area foodbank and Northern Illinois Food Bank began receiving cases of peaches and nectarines as well. As demand grew from the food banks, Rendleman Orchards aggregated peaches and nectarines from neighboring Flamm Orchards.
Each week Rendleman Orchards reached out to a specific contact at each food bank with quantities available. Interested food banks placed orders with Rendleman Orchards by the end of the week and either pick-up or receive a delivery the following Tuesday. Tri-State Food Bank and Northern Illinois Food Bank orders were delivered, while St. Louis Area foodbank picked up directly from the farm. All invoices were sent to Feeding Illinois and were paid upon confirmation of receipt from the food banks.
By the end of the 2021 growing season, Feeding Illinois reimbursed Rendleman Orchards $272,182 to cover the PPO costs for the donation of 567,085 pounds of Illinois-grown fresh fruits: 7,458 cases (372,900 lbs) of peaches; 539 cases (26,950 lbs) of nectarines; and a combined 167,235 pounds of bagged and bulk apples. An additional $10,420 was paid for associated deliveries to the four recipient food banks.
CCES is a non-profit community organization formed in 2019 to support efforts to provide area citizens with safe and convenient collection options for household materials that pose potential problems at the end of their useful life. CCES is an organizational member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition. Joy Scrogum, a member of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center Technical Assistance Program (TAP) who works primarily on zero waste projects, serves on the CCES board of directors.
The pilot project will provide pre-consumer (i.e. back-of-house) food scrap collection service to recruited commercial food scrap generators (e.g., grocery stores, commercial kitchens, and restaurants) located within or nearby Urbana. CCES will collaborate with the City of Urbana Public Works Department, which operates the LRC, and local sponsors.
CCES is currently recruiting participants for the pilot project and coordinating collection service details with the selected local waste hauler Dale Levitt Disposal (DLD) in Urbana. DLD will offer pilot project participants flexible collection options (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) at a service subscription rate of $6 per each 32-gallon container.
Additional funding received from the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois will allow CCES to provide 32-gallon collection containers for separate stream collection of commercial food scrap at no cost to pilot project participants.
Benefits of participation include:
Less odor, weight, and volume of landfill-bound trash, resulting in a potential reduction of waste hauling costs
Recognition as an organization that composts
Benefits to the environment–less food in landfills means less greenhouse gas emissions
Benefits to the local community–gardens and landscapers purchase locally-sourced compost from the LRC, and pilot participants will be contributing to the production of that compost
Businesses interested in being part of this pilot project should contact Scott Tess, email@example.com, (217) 384-2381.
Development of this pilot project was spearheaded by CCES board member Grace Wilken, in collaboration with CCES Executive Director and Champaign County Recycling Coordinator Susan Monte, and City of Urbana Sustainability & Resilience Officer, Scott Tess.
Lessons learned from the pilot will hopefully allow for the development of permanent commercial food scrap composting service in the area in the future.