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  • Writer's pictureKay Kuehn, Exec. Director

Food Waste & Composting

For some time now Open Hands Midway has been thinking about how we can become more of an environmentally friendly meal program. We discuss how can we do our part to keep food waste out of landfills. Did you know:

  • Food waste takes up more space in landfills than anything else;

  • Globally we waste about 1.4 billion tons of food every year;

  • Over 80% of Americans discards perfectly good food as they do not understand expiration labels;

  • Food waste contributes to 11% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions;

  • Americans, on average, waste one pound of food per person per day.

Food waste statistics are shocking to say the least. Thinking we are contributing to them is disheartening. We want to change that. We are tired of being seen as an establishment who does not care about our environment. As I write this blog post I want you to know we are having conversations about how to stop sending our food waste into landfills. We are talking about ways to become a more environmental friendly organization. I am working with a Sustainability Specialist at the Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation who is helping Open Hands Midway apply for a grant to jump start our efforts. If awarded this grant we will produce less landfill trash and compost the majority of the food waste we produce each week at meal programs. Our plan is to apply for this grant in March. The grant application goes through a 6 weeks approval process which would potentially get our organics recycling up and running by July 1 of this year if our application is approved.


You can do your part to make a difference in your own household. Your county may have an organics recycling program you can enroll in. You can freeze certain foods to use at a later date when you know you will not have time to use them in the immediate future. One of my favorite things to help determine if foods are still good for consumption is an app I have on my phone called FoodKeeper. You can also access FoodKeeper on your computer, simply click here. These are just a few of the ways you can help the food waste statistics decrease and make the world a better place for future generations. Hopefully 2023 will be the year Open Hands Midway can stop talking about being more a more environmentally friendly organization and actually do it, just sayin'...


Rest assured we have not ignored addressing food waste issues altogether. Over the years we have done our part by participated in a program called "Food Rescue" through Second Harvest Heartland. Through this program Second Harvest Heartland partners local grocery stores with local organizations with the store donating foods that are, for whatever reason, needing to be removed from store shelves. An apple may have a bruise, a package may be crushed but the contents are still edible, the store may have over estimated the amount needed for consumers and cannot keep it in inventory, and various other reasons. Open Hands Midway is partnered with Kowalski's Market on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, volunteers go to the store and collect anywhere between 300 and 700 pounds of bakery, deli, produce and dry goods. We then take the time to cull through the donation removing anything that we are not able to use in our meals, at our food shelf, or distribute to our guests. Even the best efforts still yield some food waste, just sayin'...


All of that leads me to ask, Are you interested in being a volunteer who can help with picking up food rescue from Kowalski's each week? We would love to have your help. Volunteers use their own vehicle to pick up the food, transport it to Open Hands Midway, weigh the food, sort the food and store the food for distribution. It is about a 2 hour commitment from the time the food is picked up to the time it is all sorted and put away for distribution at our meal or food shelf program. Please contact me at kay@openhandsmidway.org or call me at 651-646-6549 x4 if you are interested in helping with this vital part of our program.


One last thing I want to share that I found meaningful and relevant. In December a friend of mine sent me a Christmas postcard, something she does every year, with pictures she has taken in nature. On that postcard was this quote by Rainer Maria Rilke which said, "And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been." I kept that little quote on my desk now for about two months. For whatever reason I really like the thought of not just the year being new but so many other things being new. Yesterday will never happen again. Today will never happen again. We look forward to everything new. Everything you do only happens once. Disagree? You can do the same thing again but you will never do it exactly the same way. Think about that for a moment and I am sure you will agree, everything only happens once, just sayin'...

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