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Ohio Food Scraps Recovery Initiative

Did you know that each year a typical household throws away an estimated 474 pounds of food waste? In Ohio, thats enough food scraps to pile on a football field as high as the Willis Tower (former Sears Tower) - more than 1,450 feet! Food scraps generated by all households in the United States could be piled on a football field more than 5 miles (26,400 feet) high!

Up to 90 percent of waste thrown out by supermarkets and restaurants is food scraps. In fact, food scraps is the third largest segment of the waste stream, with nearly 26 million tons generated each year. Unfortunately, it is also the least recovered. If the 26 million tons of food scraps generated annually were composted rather than landfilled, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by more than 21.5 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent. This savings is equivalent to the removal of more than 4 million cars from the roadways each year, conserving more than 2 billion gallons of gasoline, or providing annual electricity needs to more than 2.5 million homes!

Whenever possible, the generation of food scraps should be minimized through source reduction and donations to local food banks (U.S. EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy). However, even the most efficient purchasing programs by businesses and consumers will inevitably result in the generation of food scraps.

Ohio EPA encourages communities and businesses to divert food scraps from landfills by utilizing composting, anaerobic digestion and other alternatives. Not only does the environment benefit from keeping food scraps out of landfills, but communities and businesses can save money by reducing their disposal costs. Through the composting process, food scraps are transformed into a rich organic soil builder that can be used in gardens and landscapes to provide many benefits to the soil. In addition to producing compost, using microbes that produce methane gas during the anaerobic digestion process generates renewable energy. As a result, a material that may have been taken to the landfill will instead add value to the land and offer solutions to energy needs.


Food Donations

Below is a list of links for various food bank operations in Ohio that may be willing to work with you on finding outlets for excess food. If you represent an organization that would like to be listed, please contact us.

Mid-Ohio Foodbank


The Mid-Ohio Foodbank works with food distribution centers, manufacturers, grocery retailers, food brokers, transportation companies and produce growers to encourage donations of surplus food and personal care products that cannot be sold in the marketplace. Excess inventory, package redesign, cosmetic imperfections, customer refusal, test marketing and short code dates are typical reasons to donate.

Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank

toledofoodbankThe Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank, Inc., is a member of America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network, which is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States. The Food Bank currently serves over 285 non-profit member agencies in eight counties in Northwest Ohio, including Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Wood and Williams counties.

Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank

akron canton foodbank

The Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank is a 85,000 square foot warehouse with more than 8,000 square feet in freezer and cooler space, and a large product recovery center. Grocery items that have been damaged at the retail level are inspected and sorted by trained personnel in our Product Recovery Center. The organization serves Summit, Stark, Portage, Medina, Wayne, Holmes, Tuscarawas and Carroll counties.

Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank


freestore food bankThe Cincinnati Freestore Foodbank was founded in 1971 and serves about 200,000 people in 20 counties throughout southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana. The organization distributes donated and surplus food to approximately 500 non-profit agencies in 20 counties, who in turn help prevent hunger in their own neighborhoods.

Greater Cleveland Food Bank

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank supplies a majority of the food used in local soup kitchens, shelters and food pantries. The organization also provides food to child-care centers, group homes and programs for the elderly. The Food Bank works closely with other northeast Ohio hunger relief organizations, providing food and non-food products to hunger centers administered by the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland, the Catholic Hunger and Shelter Network and the Salvation Army, among others.

greater cleveland food bank

Ohio Association of Foodbanks

The Ohio Association of Foodbanks is Ohios largest charitable response to hunger. Its mission: to assist foodbanks in Ohio in providing food and other resources to people in need and to pursue areas of common interest for the benefit of people in need. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks represents the 12 regional Americas Second Harvest Foodbanks who distribute food and grocery items to over 3,300 member charities statewide. These charities are comprised of food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and similar non-profit organizations.

Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio

second harvest foodbank north central ohioCurrently Second Harvest serves 120 member agencies who operate more than 150 programs throughout the region. Member agencies include emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters and supplemental food programs.

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley

second harvest mahoningSecond Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley's mission is to solicit, store and distribute food to hunger relief organizations feeding hungry people in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties; and to provide education and advocacy. The food bank believes that no one should go hungry, and they are dedicated to building a community that makes food accessible to all people. In 2009, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley distributed 7.4 million pounds of food, including 2.3 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, to 153 member agencies in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties

The Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties is a not-for-profit clearinghouse that collects, stores and distributes useable surplus food to non-profit organizations who in turn share with the people they serve. The food bank utilizes a warehouse with both dry and cold storage, trucks and a full-time staff. The food bank helps stop the waste of useable food by distributing to the needy. Donated foods may come from over-production, underweight products, mislabeled containers, outdated products, improperly coded packages, partially damaged goods, discontinued lines, over-stocked merchandise, farm surplus or other sources.

Shared Harvest Foodbank

shared harvestThe Shared Harvest Foodbank distributes surplus marketable and wholesome grocery products to a network of charitable food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other distributing organizations, which in turn distribute these products to needy and hungry people.

Southeastern Ohio Food Bank

The Southeastern Ohio Food Bank is a large warehouse operation that receives surplus food donations from major food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers and then channels this food to charitable feeding organizations throughout 10 counties in southeastern Ohio. Our mission is to channel surplus food to those who do not have enough, with a goal of making a positive difference in their lives. The food bank currently distributes food to over 200 food pantries, soup kitchens and congregate meal sites. 

The Foodbank, Inc.

the food bankThe Foodbank distributes 3,169,000 pounds of food or 6,782 meals each day in the Miami Valley. The Foodbank membership consists of approximately 90 pantries, congregate meal sites and snack or meal programs serving needy children or adults.

West Ohio Food Bank

west ohio foodbankThe West Ohio Food Bank distributes an more than 2 million pounds of food each year. Food supplies come from industry surplus, over production, test marketing and soon to expire or dented merchandise.


Food Service Waste Reduction Tips and Ideas

*Reprinted from the California Integrated Waste Management Board's website

Restaurants, fast food establishments and cafeterias can do a lot to minimize or reduce potential cost increases by incorporating simple waste prevention and recycling programs and procedures that will eliminate much of the waste that is thrown away. With proper purchasing and handling, and careful preparation and storage, food service establishments can help reduce waste and save money! Your restaurant may already be using many of these ideas to reduce costs as well as waste. Try a few new suggestions, see how they work and then continue to expand your waste reduction program.


  • Serve beverages from a beverage gun or dispenser, buy bar mixes in concentrate form and buy milk in 5-gallon dispenser boxes.


Grocery Items

  • Use health department-approved, refillable condiment dispensers instead of individual packets. Buy shelf-stable food supplies in bulk when sales volume and storage space allows.
  • Consider buying your lettuce pre-cut during those times of the year when the pre-cut cost is equal to (or less than) the cost of the bulk product.
  • Buy meats in bulk or uncut form and cut to size.
  • Consider buying shelled eggs, in bulk, if your egg usage for general cooking or baking is three or more cases per week.

Produce Handling and Storage

  • Donate unserved food to a local food bank.
  • Check your produce deliveries carefully for rotten or damaged product and return any substandard product.
  • Rotate perishable stock at every delivery to minimize waste due to spoilage.
  • Clean coolers and freezers regularly to ensure that food has not fallen behind the shelving and spoiled.
  • Arrange your refrigerated and dry storage areas to facilitate easy product access and rotation.
  • Store raw vegetables and other perishables in reusable airtight containers to prevent unnecessary dehydration and spoilage.
  • Rehydrate vegetables (e.g., celery, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, etc.) that have wilted by trimming off the very bottom part of the stalk and immersing in warm water (100F.) for 15 to 20 minutes.


Food Preparation and Storage

  • Adjust inventory levels on perishables to reduce waste due to spoilage or dehydration.
  • Use hourly or daily production charts to minimize over prepping and unnecessary waste.
  • Whenever possible, prepare foods to order.
  • When prepping food, only trim off what is not needed.
  • Use vegetable and meat trimmings for soup stock.
  • Adjust the size of meal portions if you find they are consistently being returned unfinished.
  • Pre-cool hot foods (in an ice bath) before refrigerating.
  • Reuse leftover foods that have been stored at proper temperature within two days of preparation to prevent waste due to spoilage.
  • Store leftover hot foods from different stations in separate containers to reduce the chance of spoilage.
  • Wrap freezer products tightly, label and date them. Make sure they are used in a timely fashion, to minimize waste due to freezer burn.


  • Ask your suppliers take back shipping boxes for reuse or recycling and to keep you informed about new and existing products that are packaged in ways which can reduce waste.
  • Always consider durability as a cost criterion when buying equipment and janitorial supplies.
  • Purchase paper products made from recycled materials.
  • Use reusable coasters (or nothing at all) instead of paper napkins when serving beverages from the bar.
  • Store and handle unwrapped paper supplies to prevent the products from inadvertently falling on the floor.
  • Use reusable table linen and dinnerware.
  • Use cloth towels for cleaning, rather than the paper equivalents.sponge and spray
  • Use plastic trash can liners made of recycled HDPE instead of ones made of LDPE or LLDPE. They contain less raw material, work equally well for most uses and generally cost less.
  • Purchase cleaning supplies in concentrate form.
  • Use multipurpose cleaners that can be used for all types of surfaces rather than cleaners that are job specific. Whenever possible, use cleaning agents that are less hazardous or non-hazardous.
  • Use reusable hats for kitchen employees instead of disposable paper ones.

Production and Service Areas

  • Implement a monthly cleaning and maintenance program for all your equipment.
  • Keep refrigeration in good running order to prevent unnecessary spoilage and reduce energy costs.
  • Check the syrup-to-water calibration on beverage dispensers regularly.
  • Keep oven equipment calibrated to prevent over baking.
  • Clean fryers and filter the oil daily. Use a test kit to determine when to change fryer oil.


  • Create incentives for staff to reduce breakage of china and glass.
  • Place rubber mats around bus and dish washing stations to reduce china and glass breakage.
  • Have employees use permanent-ware mugs or cups for their drinks.
  • Check for discarded trays and flatware before throwing out dining room trash.


  • burger and friesDistribute condiments from behind the counter instead of offering self-service.
  • Use straw-style stir sticks for bar beverages instead of the solid style.
  • Serve straws from health department-approved dispensers rather than pre-wrapped, and offer only one straw per drink.
  • Use serving containers in sizes that meet the packaging needs of your menu items without having excess packaging material.
  • Minimize the use of unnecessary extra packaging of take-out foods. Use less packaging for eat-in foods than for food being taken out, or use none at all.
  • Offer customers a discount if they bring their own mugs, containers, or bags.

Recycling Activities

  • Set up a rendering service for your waste grease, fat or used cooking oil.
  • Set up a recycling program with one of your local collectors (e.g. cardboard, glass).
  • If you serve beverages in cans or bottles, place a recycling bin in the dining area for your customers' empty beverage containers.
  • Donate empty plastic pails or buckets to schools, nurseries, churches, customers or employees.
  • Donate old uniforms to thrift shops.

Ask Your Employees

take notes

  • Don't forget to ask your staff for their input and assistance on what can be done to reduce waste. Reward them for good ideas. Including employees in the decision-making process will help ensure participation in your efforts to reduce waste and will result in higher productivity, better morale and lower costs.

Tell Your Customers

  • Educate customers and advertise your waste reduction program by posting signs highlighting your efforts. Offer customers a discount if they bring their own mugs, containers or bags.


Potential Funding Resources for Food Scrap Composting Projects

The resources below will provide you with a starting point in identifying potential funding resources for food scrap composting projects. We cannot, however, guarantee the availability of funding through the resources listed below.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Market Development Grant (MDG)

The Market Development Grant (MDG) provides financial assistance to recycled material processors and product manufacturers operating within Ohio. Funding is available to purchase equipment and conduct applied research and development that will strengthen markets for recyclable materials. Eligible projects may target post-consumer, post-commercial and post-industrial recycled material. The division is interested in funding those projects that impact the largest Ohio market area and consume the largest volume of scrap tires or recyclable materials.

Eligible applicants include Ohio cities with a population greater than 50,000; counties and solid waste management districts or solid waste management authorities. These applicants apply on behalf of local businesses. The maximum grant amount is $250,000 for recycling market development projects, and the maximum grant amount is $350,000 for manufacturing or processing projects involving scrap tires. Testing, research and development projects may receive a maximum of $75,000.

Applicants must demonstrate that the local business will provide a financial contribution to the project equal to the amount requested in division grant funds. The match should be a cash contribution or a documented line of credit dedicated to the project.

If you have any questions regarding grant opportunities, please email Chet Chaney or call (614) 728-0043.

Local Solid Waste Management Districts

In 1988, Ohios legislature passed House Bill 592 to help strengthen Ohios solid waste law and implement a planning process at both the local and state government levels. The bill required all counties to establish Solid Waste Management Districts (SWMDs), either independently or jointly with other counties. SWMDs prepare plans to help their communities meet certain goals related to the management and recycling/reduction of industrial waste (waste produced by manufacturing-type businesses).

You may want to check with your local SWMD to see if funding may be available to assist in launching a food scrap composting project in your area. For contact information, see the Division of Materials and Waste Management (DMWM) SWMD chair list.

Ohio EPA Environmental Education Fund (OEEF)

Monies credited to the Environmental Education Fund consist of half of all penalties collected by Ohio EPA air and water pollution control programs, as well as gifts, grants and contributions. The fund must be used to enhance the publics awareness and understanding about issues affecting environmental quality in Ohio. There is no limit on the type of environmental education projects that can receive funding. Some examples of eligible activities include:

  • Providing educational seminars for the public regarding the scientific and technical aspects of environmental issues
  • Providing educational programs on pollution prevention and waste minimization for the regulated community
  • Providing educational programs on regulatory requirements and methods to achieve and maintain compliance for the regulated community (including small businesses)

The education fund provides general grants (up to $50,000) and mini grant (from $500-$5,000). For more information, visit the OEE webpage.


Associations and Additional Resources

The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

Ohio Composting and Manure Management Program (OCAMM) at The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

Articles and Reading Materials

BioCycle - BioCycle is America's foremost magazine on composting and organics recycling. BioCycle shows you how to turn organic residuals (for example, woody materials, yard trimmings, food residuals, biosolids, manure) into value-added products.

Ohio Seeks to Boost Food Waste Recovery, Waste News Article, July 2007. [PDF]

Ohio Targets Food Residual Composting, BioCycle, September 2007. [PDF]

Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging: A Guide for Food Services and Restaurants - U.S. EPA 

Home Composting

Food Scrap Composting at Home

You can do a lot to help keep food scraps from taking up valuable landfill space in Ohio by composting food scraps at home. Its pretty easy, and youre helping the environment. Below are some helpful resources to help you learn more about composting at home:


Composting Facility Regulations

Ohio EPA categorizes composting facilities into four classes based on the type of material the facility can accept. Class II facilities are eligible to receive and process food scraps from external sources. Class II facilities may also accept yard and animal waste. Click here for a list and map of their locations.

The three steps needed to establish a Class II composting facility are registration, license and financial assurance. For more information on composting facility regulations, see the following resources from Ohio EPA:


Food Scrap Composting Technology and Success Stories


Ohio Success Stories