Estimating And Harnessing The Environmental Benefit Of Food Waste Reduction For The Food Banking System

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Recent research by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) estimated that 40% of the food produced in the United States, or 66 billion lbs., is wasted every year. As the largest source of organic waste in landfills, the environmental impact of food waste recovery can be significant. Between 50%-85% of the food a food bank receives is diverted from a landfill. Feeding America estimates an additional 10.5 billion lbs. of food is needed to eliminate hunger in the United States. Given that food banking contributes to food waste diversion, can carbon offsets can be sold to financially support the growth of food banks? This analysis uses the Raleigh branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina as a case study to calculate a single food bank's greenhouse gas emissions and compare it to an alternate scenario where the food delivered by the food bank ends up in a landfill. Calculations based methodologies from The Climate Registry’s General Reporting Protocol, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s WARM model and a self-developed geospatial network analysis model (using ArcGIS) provided the basis of the analysis. The results show that the food waste diversion saves between 3,000 - 5,600 mTCO2e in emissions, which is 1.8 to 3.2 times the operational emissions of the food bank. Every pound of food moved by the food bank saves 0.39lbs. CO2e. The amount of greenhouse gas savings, if monetized, could partially subsidize additional human resources, asset capacity expansions, or energy efficiency investments that could lead to long term financial and environmental savings. While a food bank can show it has a positive environmental benefit through reduction of food waste, harnessing it financially will be difficult. Requirements for recognizing and selling a carbon offset make it difficult for any single food bank to access the carbon offset market. Active participation of umbrella organizations like Feeding America, government and corporations would be needed to investigate this potential further. Alternatively, additional market analysis can be done to identify new fundraising targets and strategies for food banks by highlighting their environmental benefits.





Tok, Xinying (2013). Estimating And Harnessing The Environmental Benefit Of Food Waste Reduction For The Food Banking System. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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