In Northern Illinois and throughout the United States, we know there is enough food to fill the plates and bellies of each and every one of our neighbors – and yet $218 billion worth of food is thrown away each year(1). In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that over one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste(2). That uneaten food then makes up 21 percent of landfill volume.
At Northern Illinois Food Bank, our mission of solving hunger goes hand-in-hand with reducing food waste. Through our retail recovery program, Direct Connect, we help establish relationships between local retailers and our food pantries for donations of fresh and other food items (like produce, meat, baked good, etc.). Last year, the Food Bank recovered 27.7 million pounds of food through the Direct Connect program – that’s the equivalent of 23 million meals for our neighbors in need! In total, the Food Bank and our food pantries recover from 415 retail stores, allowing us to not only provide plentiful groceries for our neighbors, but to also help keep unsold food from ending up in a landfill.
In addition to Direct Connect, the Food Bank makes every effort to find alternative solutions to throwing unusable food away. When we have spoiled meat products, we don’t toss them in the trash; we send them to a big cat sanctuary in Wisconsin! Similarly, inedible grain products become animal feed for a farmer in Will County. As for produce, we began composting efforts in 2015 as part of our waste management plan, and last year decreased the amount of trash we produce by 46 percent.
Now it’s your turn to help reduce food waste, solve hunger, and protect the environment – all at the same time! Here are some ideas on how to make a difference in your everyday life:
You can also help divert food from landfills straight to the plates of our neighbors in need by volunteering at your local food bank.
Remember, no action is too big or too small in the fight against food waste – what you do matters!
(1)“Fighting Food Waste With Food Rescue.” Feeding America
(2)“Food Waste FAQs.” USDA.