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New IU Program To Transform Food Waste Into Compost

It's the first day of classes at Indiana University. A new partnership hopes to lessen the food that gets wasted before it hits the cafeterias.

The Hilltop Garden and Nature Center has several compost bins in which food waste from two Indiana University dining halls transforms into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Trash To Treasure

A pilot program rolling out this fall hopes to convert food waste at Indiana University into nutrient-rich compost — instead of tossing the scraps into local landfills.

The Indiana University Office of Sustainability is partnering with the Local Growers Guild (LGG) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to allow local farmers and community organizations to collect pre-consumer food waste from campus dining facilities for off-campus composting.

“We are looking forward to the pilot and gaining useful information that will help us to reduce our overall waste stream,” says Hank Hewetson, assistant vice president for facility operations and co-chair of the Resource Use and Recycling Working Group.

Before It Hits The Plate

This program will collect pre-consumer food waste from Edmondson Dining Hall at Collins Living Learning Center, making it the third dining facility on campus to participate in a composting program.

The Hilltop Garden and Nature Center is currently composting food waste from the Indiana Memorial Union and the Union Street Market. Finished compost at the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center is used in the Edible Campus Garden, where fresh produce is grown for IU dining facilities.

The LGG partners on the pilot program, including Smith Pike Farm, Sunny Branch Farm, and Bloomington Community Orchard, will use the composted material to produce food sold in the Bloomington area.

Farmers In Need

LGG Manager Megan Hutchison is excited about transforming kitchen scraps into a nutrient-packed soil amendment.

“Quality compost can be hard to find locally or is too expensive for some farming operations,” she says.

The regular addition of compost in a sustainable farming system increases organic matter to improve soil structure. It also helps retain water and nutrients in the soil.

Thanks to Nikki Wooten for her contributions to this story.

Earth Eats Staff

Earth Eats Staff is a weekly podcast, public radio program and blog bringing you the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

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