A University of Northern Iowa program targets ways to stop wasting food.

A recent Iowa Department of Natural Resources study found almost 14% of all trash dumped in the state’s landfills is food waste, or about 350,000 tons a year.

Dan Nickey is the senior program manager for the Iowa Waste Reduction Center at UNI.

“The project’s goal is to provide a foundation of resources and information for entities that want to reduce food waste,” Nickey says, “and also to be an advocate of the issue and to get the word out.”

The problem is getting worse, as the study found the amount of food waste being chucked in Iowa landfills has risen 62% in the past 13 years. Iowa has 46 municipal solid waste landfills but only four of them offer a food waste composting program.

He says one possible solution would be for restaurants to offer smaller portions — at corresponding smaller menu prices. Eateries could also start a composting program or another effort to reduce waste.

“There are a lot of benefits,” Nickey says. “There are some restaurants that are doing food waste diversion that see a really big benefit from a PR standpoint. They can market themselves as being socially and environmentally responsible and some feel it’s just the right thing to do.”

He says restaurants and institutions like hospitals and colleges should assess what’s being thrown out and track the results.

“They may realize, ‘We’re throwing away a lot of french fries every Friday,’ because on campus, there’s not a lot of people there on Friday afternoons,” Nickey says. “So they can start saying, ‘We don’t need to make five batches of fries on Friday, we can make three batches,’ so try to figure out why they’re generating what they are and come up with solutions.”

Nationwide, 40% of all food produced ends up in landfills. Learn more at the Iowa Waste Reduction Center website: http://iwrc.org/services/food-waste/