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Corvallis group fighting food waste, one composting pail at a time

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Corvallis’ No Food Left Behind program is heading toward its fifth year and is joining with the state to coordinate materials and strategies to prevent food waste.

The program, headed by Jeanette Hardison of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, also continues to attract funding to continue its work. The project has received $90,000 via a pair of state Department of Environmental Quality grants and $28,000 more in a pair of grants from the sustainability coalition.

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The DEQ has unveiled a statewide program called “Don’t Let Food Go Bad,” with input from Corvallis as well as programs in Eugene, Portland and Deschutes County.

“DEQ has been a national leader in wasted food prevention,” Hardison said. “Locally, they awarded No Food Left Behind with back-to-back field grants to develop and expand our efforts, which now include outreach into out Spanish-speaking communities.”

A key tool that Hardison and her team have been using is a simple composting pail that includes printed instructions on it. Since 2018 the group has distributed approximately 1,000 of the pails, which were paid for with $6,000 of the originals $15K grant from the sustainability coalition.

“Many in the Corvallis community are still unaware that they can put kitchen scraps into their ‘yard debris’ carts curbside,” Hardison said. “Our countertop pails help remove the barrier of getting scraps from kitchen to curb, and come with a sturdy sticker listing what can and cannot be included.

“They're the same pail purchased by municipalities all over the U.S. to give or sell to their citizens to help keep food scraps out of landfills.”

The other key piece of the No Food Left Behind program is its “smart strategies,” which cover planning, shopping, prep and storage.

Hardison and her team started with an Environmental Protection Agency program and then refined their concepts “to suit the Corvallis community.”

During the 2018-19 years, Hardison said, the program reached more than 9,000 individuals and distributed more than 20,000 copies of the “smart strategies.” Despite COVID-19, during 2020-21 the program reached more than 1,000 individuals in person and 10,000 more online.

“Another great metric is the anecdotal evidence we receive from people who stop back by our Farmers’ Market table, sharing how much less they are wasting now that they brought home our materials and got their families involved,” she said “It has been very encouraging.”

The No Food Left Behind team has concluded its riverfront Corvallis Farmers’ Market tabling for the year, but the group plans to offer advice and composting pails t least twice a month at the winter market at the Benton County Fairgrounds, which opens Jan. 8.

The pails are free to those in need, with a $5 donation recommended to help cover the cost of the pails.

Annette Mills, facilitator of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, says the food waste prevention program helps fulfill key goals of the coalition’s mission.

“Preventing waste in the first place — whether it’s food, water, energy — ensures there’s more to go around while also slowing our individual and collective contributions to the climate crisis,” Mills said.

Hardison noted that the food waste program also saves money. In fact, she said focus groups and other research conducted by the state DEQ shows that the saving money piece is more important to consumers than the environmental message.

More Corvallis news

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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