Seven Valleys Health Coalition has launched an online survey to learn more about food waste throughout Cortland County and will use the responses to decide how to approach change through its food rescue program.
Program Coordinator Gabrielle DiDomenico said all Cortland County residents are welcome to participate in the survey, which will stay open until spring 2022.
“Reducing food waste is an important topic for me because it’s accessible — anyone can do it — and it has multiple, positive impacts that are far-reaching on both the health of the household and the community you live in,” DiDomenico said.
To help reduce local waste, Seven Valleys Food Rescue collects excess edible food that would otherwise be
discarded from local grocers, restaurants, farmers and gardeners, and uses it to feed people experiencing hunger.
Americans waste about 25% of the food we purchase, by not preparing it before it goes bad and by not eating all of the food we do prepare, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Conservation.
The consequences for wasted food include the methane gases generated by decomposing food in landfills, wasted labor, water and energy from growing, packaging, transporting and refrigerating food, and wasted financial resources, reports the DEC.
The value of uneaten food per U.S. household is almost $1,000 per year.
Fill out the survey
How to reduce your at-home food waste:
- Meal plan
- Make a list before grocery shopping
- Properly store food items
- Learn to compost by visiting
“Rescuing edible food that would otherwise be thrown out and helping distribute it to those who may be experiencing food access challenges is a big win in my book,” DiDomenico said. “I firmly believe that access to nutritious, health-supporting food is a basic human right and that food equity is something that needs to be addressed more often.”
The food rescue program is made possible through a grant from the city of Cortland, said Bruce Adams, superintendent of wastewater for the city. It’s made possible through a subcontract with the city of Cortland and with funding from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.
“I’ve been working on a DEC grant-funded composting project which will use food waste as a source material, keeping it out of the landfill,” Adams said.
That project is a natural fit with the concept of rescuing safe, edible food that would otherwise be wasted and using it to address food insecurity, Adams said. He recalls a day he saw people standing outside in unpleasant weather, waiting in a long line at the food pantry.
“To me, it’s not so much about preventing waste, as it is leveraging an opportunity to do something amazing for people who can use the help,” he said. “For those residents who will use the program’s food distribution services, it has the potential of making the difference between seeing your children fed and healthy, versus wondering how you’re going to put food on the table.”
So far, Seven Valleys Food Rescue has prevented over 10 tons of food waste by rescuing excess food and redistributing it to community support outlets, including food pantries, no-cost meal programs, a domestic violence shelter, childcare programs and others, DiDomenico said.
“In the upcoming months, we hope to increase our food recovery activities. grocery stores and restaurants, increase our volunteer base and continue to create activities that both reduce the amount of food heading to the landfill and uplift those who may be experiencing hunger or food access issues,” DiDomenico said.