By Alex Kowalski
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE – In an effort to stave nearly 1.64 million tons of food waste across New England, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) has brought on 26 regional colleges and universities, including three in Rhode Island.
The EPA looks to reduce a sum of local perishable food waste comparative to the crude steel output of China in 2013, according to a release. To reduce the Earth Day-inspired goal, the EPA said that higher education and its food service contractors must to reduce their portions and habits.
The agency notes that there are litanies of perks for becoming an FRC partner, including: cost-savings for the institutions, tangible support to locals who need the nourishment and the redirection of food from landfills to less environmentally damaging disposal sites like composting zones.
So far, the FRC appears to be working: 11 school partners have recovered over 4,500 tons in the last two years, according to the EPA.
Out of Rhode Island’s colleges, only the University of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University and Roger Williams University are currently participating. Massachusetts schools on board with the FRC, totaling 11, include Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The amount of food donated or recycled thus far, or how much money is being saved by each individual school, was not made public and the regional EPA office could not be reached as of pressing.
The program also encourages recycling “as much…excess food as possible,” by donating it to financially troubled and food-deprived members of the community. The EPA said that despite the possible health and safety concerns, most of what is thrown away is “actually safe, wholesome food that could feed millions of Americans.”
In Rhode Island, more than 47 percent of households with teens and young children live below the poverty line and receive some type of federal food stamps, or SNAP, according to 2011 Census data. The same families have with a median income just over $16,000.