SWACO is celebrating the first anniversary of the ‘Save More Than Food’ (SMTF) initiative, a public education campaign launched in Fall 2020 as a way to help homes, schools and businesses reduce their food waste and contribute to a Franklin County-wide goal to cut food waste in half by 2030. Save More Than Food is anchored by an immersive consumer focused website, which has provided information to thousands of visitors since it launched. SMTF is also supported by a robust marketing and education campaign featuring messages about how to reduce waste and its many benefits. These messages have been seen millions of times in Central Ohio.  

In addition, more than thirty partners – including organizations like Franklin Park Conservatory, Food Rescue US and Columbus Public Health – are currently using SMTF resources to reach their stakeholders with food prevention, rescue and recycling resources. Further, Franklin County is now home to nine community food waste drop off programs. In the last year alone, these programs have collectively composted more than four hundred forty thousand pounds of food waste, diverting it from the landfill.   

Central Ohio’s efforts are being noticed nationally. Last year, SWACO received a $60,000 federal grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency to study food waste behaviors and the positive benefits education programs like Save More Than Food can have. Under the grant, SWACO partnered with the City of Upper Arlington and The Ohio State University to study the behaviors of hundreds of central Ohio households receiving Save More Than Food educational materials. Not only did the city capture and divert 138,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill since the start of the campaign, the partners also documented a reduction in overall food waste being generated by families and residents when given SMTF resources.  

“Food waste presents one of the best opportunities to increase our diversion rate in Franklin County, further reducing our reliance on the landfill,” said Ty Marsh, Executive Director for SWACO. “I’m thrilled at the progress we’ve made as a community, but this is only the beginning. We have a responsibility as community leaders to invest in initiatives that not only support and strengthen our local economy but that help protect the health of our environment for generations to come.” 

Every day, central Ohio residents, schools and businesses discard nearly a million pounds of food which arrives at the local landfill, making it the largest portion of the local waste stream. In many instances, that food can be used to feed hungry families or returned to the earth in the form of compost, a nutrient-rich soil enhancement.  

To help tackle this, SWACO created the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative (COFWI), a collective of more than 150 non-profit, education, government and businesses who have come together to address food waste in the Columbus Region. The SMTF campaign was a priority included in the Central Ohio Food Waste Action Plan published by COFWI. The Food Waste Action Plan laid out 20 specific initiatives for preventing food waste, rescuing and redistributing usable, edible food, and recycling food through composting and other technologies. SWACO’s successful leadership of the COWFI earned the organization an award for Outstanding Recycling Organization for 2020 from the National Recycling Coalition.  

Later this year, SWACO and COFWI will release an update to the Food Waste Action Plan. “The Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative is a truly unprecedented example of a collective impact model that’s working toward a significant reduction in food waste in our region,” said Kyle O’Keefe, Director of Innovations and Programs at SWACO. “More importantly, recognition of our food waste diversion work at the national level is evidence of a best-in-class model for communities across the country with similar issues. It’s thrilling to see leaders across Central Ohio have a leading voice in an issue that impacts every person on this planet. The possibilities are limitless, and we look forward to reporting out on future progress.” 

For more information, visit www.swaco.org.