MPCA grant funding helps prevent wasted food, lower greenhouse gases

Contact: Lucie Amundsen, 218-302-6600

Earlier this week, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop stressed the connection between wasted food and climate change while publicly recognizing inaugural recipients of the agency’s “Prevention of Wasted Foods” grants program. The program, approved by the legislature in 2019, will distribute a total of $1 million over two years to organizations that lead programs to keep food from going to waste and redirect it to Minnesotans in need.

“Preventing wasted food is one of the biggest opportunities for everyday Minnesotans to impact climate change,” said Bishop during a roundtable event Tuesday afternoon to highlight the grantees. “Almost 20% of our garbage in Minnesota is food waste and households are the largest producers of it. Individuals can carefully plan, store, and prepare food to prevent having to compost or throw it away."

Wasted food sent to landfills contributes to rising greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the main cause of climate change. Composting is an important part of the waste management system and keeps food from landfills. “However,” Bishop said, “if given the choice to prevent a pound of wasted food or compost a pound of wasted food, prevention is always best.”

Three grantees participated in Tuesday’s roundtable event, along with an additional organization that had received MPCA funds through different grant program focused on composting and recycling.

Participants included: 

Sarah Hovseth, The Good Acre / Local Emergency Assistance Farm Fund, Falcon Heights 

Natasha Frost, South Central Minnesota Food Recovery Project, Mankato   

Anika Rychner and Erica Zweifel, Northfield Food Rescue Program, Northfield   

Cathy Maes, Loaves & Fishes, Minneapolis   

The MPCA has received overwhelming interest in the wasted foods grants program, with more than 30 organizations requesting a combined $3M to support their programs. Those awarded MPCA funding during the first round are reporting initial success.

“We’re proud to share that this past year, farms supported by our program provided the largest amount of produce ever to three Hmong schools in the Twin Cities,” said Anna Richardson, program director of The Good Acre, one of five grantees selected by the program. “One farmer told us that sales were better this year, and he sold all of his crop so that nothing went to waste. Funding from the MPCA will help us continue this important work.”

Project descriptions:

The Good Acre (Falcon Heights)

Received $75,000 to recruit farmers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) with excess produce, purchase their excess food at fair market value, and distribute to hunger relief programs that prioritize neighborhoods with higher density of BIPOC residents. The program also provides resources and assistance to farmers, introducing them to new wholesale markets and technology.  

Northfield Food Rescue Program (Northfield)
Received $54,000 to expand food shelf capacity with additional cold storage to enable partnerships with local farmers to donate extra milk and eggs. The model uses Carleton students to transport 100,000 pounds of food each year, and the Community Action Center of Northfield rescues 250,000 pounds of food annually. Food shelf visits increased by 30% and a total of 314,790 pounds of food were saved. This reduced Northfield’s GHG by 56,710 kg.  

South Central Minnesota Food Recovery Project (Mankato)
Received $75,000 to recover, process, and store food for individuals experiencing food insecurities and divert it from the waste stream. Goals are met through a new food donation app, along with space to receive, store, and distribute recovered food. This approach overcomes significant hurdles in preventing edible food from ending in landfills. The program engages with a coalition of organizations to ensure that low-income and BIPOC community members provide vital input for the app’s development.

Loaves & Fishes (Minneapolis)
Received $164,176 to rescue an additional 500,000 pounds of food by hiring a driver to transport it. These bulk-sized food items (farm and nonfarm produce, perfect and imperfect produce) are made into wholesome, complete meals distributed to people in need.

The grant has also expanded the organization’s kitchen and food rescue abilities, while developing a cooking curriculum to teach students, cooking staff, and volunteers the tools to prioritize nutrition, cut costs, and save food.

Background

The MPCA’s “Prevention of Wasted Food and Food Rescue” grants program is specifically designed to fund projects that help feed hungry people and help organizations minimize their wasted food. In addition to the grantees named above, the MPCA awarded money to the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs for a program to better target the number of meals needed and prevent overproduction and waste.

The MPCA is reviewing recently received applications for a second round of grants and anticipates announcing the recipients later this year.

Learn more about the agency’s Prevention of Wasted Food efforts.