Handshake heart

Fostering Regional Collaboration To Cut Food Waste in Half Over the Next 10 Years

Hundreds of partners have come together to help solve the issue of food waste. Learn about those efforts and how they’re gaining national recognition.

1million pounds of food waste arrives at the landfill every day
150+ partners are working to address the issue

Report on Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative (COFWI) Activities

Reaching goals to reduce food waste in Central Ohio starts with knowing our numbers.

A recent Waste Characterization Study found that the single largest material being landfilled is food waste, accounting for almost a million pounds of waste landfilled every day. As such, it presents one of the best opportunities to increase the diversion of materials away from the landfill and achieve our 75% diversion goal.

To that end, in 2019, SWACO convened the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, a collaborative group of more than 150 partners, working together to reach the goal of cutting food waste in half in the region by 2030. Later that year, the initiative published the Central Ohio Food Waste Action Plan, which outlines 20 solutions that will help the Initiative reach its collective goal. The Initiative addresses food waste with a holistic approach, pursuing solutions for preventing, recovering and recycling food waste.

SWACO spent 2020 implementing a number of the Plan’s identified solutions, including launching resources for schools and a new public-facing consumer education campaign and working with local restaurants throughout the pandemic to support their food waste reduction needs.

Later this year, SWACO will release an update to the Food Waste Action Plan.

Save More Than Food Campaign Accomplishments

In the Food Waste Action Plan, a consumer, public-facing education campaign was identified as an important first step to reaching food waste reduction goals. The resulting campaign, Save More Than Food, launched in September 2020. Between the campaign launch and the end of 2020, the campaign:

  • Engaged 32 communities/partner organizations as part of the campaign launch
  • Received more than 55 million views of paid ads
  • Received over 13,000 visits on the newly launched SaveMoreThanFood.org website

Secured a Federal US EPA Grant

As a part of the Action Plan and the Save More Than Food campaign, SWACO also applied for and received a $60,000 federal grant to study food waste behaviors in Central Ohio and the positive benefits education can have through the Save More Than Food campaign.

SWACO is currently working with The Ohio State University and the city of Upper Arlington on these efforts. Learn more about this here.

School Food Waste Resources

We developed SWACO’s food waste resources to provide teachers, students, and administrators with various activities and tools for implementing food waste reduction programs and habits both at school and at home. The resources are geared toward outreach and education to build awareness and motivate users to take action.

Central Ohio Food Waste Champions

Local restaurants work with fresh ingredients every single day, so they can make a huge difference by making changes to how they handle and prevent their food waste.

The Action Plan identifies the need to support restaurants and the food industry with implementing best practices for reducing food waste. As a result, the Food Waste Champions program was created to support and showcase local food businesses that are working to reduce food waste and to develop case studies and practices that other businesses can adopt.

The Champions program partnered with 5 different food businesses to implement food waste prevention, donation and composting while documenting impacts and learnings to share with other food businesses across Central Ohio.

The 4 Champion companies who launched work in 2020 were Wendy’s (Clintonville restaurant location), Local Cantina (Brewery District), Harvest Bar + Kitchen (Clintonville) and OhioHealth’s Dublin Methodist Hospital.

The Champion’s program work was delayed by restaurant closures and operational changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When pilot work was completed in early 2021, the following work had been accomplished with the 3 completed Champion projects, Harvest Pizza, Wendy’s and OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital.

Harvest Bar + Kitchen
SWACO provided a total of over $1,800 in funding and professional support resulting in over 2,800 pounds of diverted food over a 16-week span.
OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital
Dublin Methodist Hospital’s kitchen reached a food waste diversion rate of 80% after starting the program. The team also is now on a regular donation schedule, sharing excess meals with community members in need.
SWACO provided a total of over $1,400 in funding in addition to professional support resulting in over 1,700 pounds of organic material diverted to compost over a 14-week span.

Grant-Funded Composting and Food Waste Activities

Last year, SWACO awarded several grants to support composting and food waste diversion activities taking place at local non-profits and municipal partners.

PAST Foundation

PAST Foundation was awarded $24,000 to update the SWACO Garbology curriculum used for teaching students in grades 5-12 about waste reduction, recycling, and composting. The updated curriculum will be available for download with SWACO’s existing recycling and composting resources available to all Franklin County teachers.

Local Matters

Local Matters was awarded $17,155 to provide hands-on nutrition and food waste education and in-vessel composting in Central Ohio. It can process up to 65 pounds of food waste a day and create up to100 pounds of usable compost every week, which will be used to support its more than 25 community gardens.

Food Rescue US

Food Rescue US was awarded $16,500 to enhance their app to allow food donors to register available food, social service agencies to communicate their food and delivery needs, and volunteers to sign up to assist with rescuing and redistributing excess food. Funding is also being used towards the creation of a new public education campaign to increase awareness and use of the app.

Columbus Public Health

Columbus Public Health was awarded $2,432 to create a food waste donation guide for businesses, like restaurants, which serve food in Columbus and Franklin County. The guide was distributed to 10,000 retail food businesses with clear, consistent, and accessible guidance on how to donate food.

City of Dublin

The City is expected to compost approximately 100,000 pounds of food waste each year.
Learn More

The city of Dublin was awarded $6,759 to establish 1 food waste drop-off location for Dublin residents. In just the first 6 months of the program, the city collected and composted more than 48,00 pounds of food waste.

City of Westerville

Both locations composted more than 66,700 pounds of food waste last year.
Learn More

The city of Westerville received $8,117 to establish 2 food waste drop-off locations for Westerville residents.

City of Upper Arlington

More than 137,000 pounds of food waste was composted.
Learn More

The city of Upper Arlington received $2,777 to increase the number of food waste drop-off locations from 2 to 3.

City of Hilliard

In just the first two months of the program, approximately 3,200 pounds of food waste was composted. 
Learn More

The city of Hilliard was awarded $9,312 to establish 1 food waste drop-off location for Hilliard residents. They expect to divert 600 pounds of food waste per week from the landfill once the program is fully operational.

In addition, the cities of Bexley, Grandview Heights, Grove City and Worthington provide food waste composting programs to residents.

Food Waste Award

The National Recycling Coalition, a non-profit organization focused on promoting and enhancing recycling in the United States, has named SWACO as the Outstanding Recycling Organization for 2020. Learn more about this honor here.

Lunch with Lucy Series

Lunch with Lucy is a video series featuring great recipes and ideas for reducing waste while you’re cooking.

View more of the series here.

Forums and Presentations

SWACO’s food waste coordinator participated in a variety of virtual forums and presentations to help educate the community about the issue of food waste, share SWACO’s efforts and connect partners with available resources on the Save More Than Food website. Some of the organizations include:

  • Wendy’s
  • Sustainable Grandview
  • Franklin County Local Food Action Plan committee

Advancing Sustainability Goals

See how SWACO puts sustainability into action through support for local partner projects and how we pivoted in 2020 to reach people in a mostly virtual world.