Iowa Waste Reduction Center releases whitepaper on food waste in rural Iowa schools

UNI NEWS SERVICES - The Iowa Waste Reduction Center (IWRC) at the University of Northern Iowa has released a new whitepaper detailing food waste at K-12 schools in rural Iowa. The whitepaper analyzes data collected by the IWRC over the last five years of providing direct assistance to K-12 schools across the state in the fight against food waste.

According to the data, the IWRC estimates K-12 students in Iowa tossed over 150,000 pounds of food and beverage waste every school day during breakfast and lunch in the 2018-2019 school year. Moreover, Iowa’s K-12 students tossed nearly 30 million pounds of food and beverage waste in 2018-2019 (based on 180 day school year) with the majority of this ending up in the landfill.

The whitepaper details methodology, student impact, outcomes of assistance, and food and beverage waste data collected over the last five years. With the current situation created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, this whitepaper can be used as a guide for K-12 schools to calculate food and beverage waste rather than conducting actual waste sorts; which would be nearly impossible to conduct with social distancing and public health protocols.  

“We’ve learned so much over the past five years while conducting waste audits at K-12 schools. One important aspect of preventing and reducing food waste is the forging of partnerships that increase opportunities,” said Jenny Trent, waste reduction specialist at the IWRC who spearheaded these efforts. “Haulers, food banks and pantries, compost operations, anaerobic digestion facilities, farmers, and food waste generators can all work together with community leaders to spearhead initiatives. When this occurs, we see the most success in diverting food waste from the landfill.” 

To view the whitepaper, please visit

About the Iowa Waste Reduction Center 

The IWRC has been providing environmental services including business assistance, industry training, as well as research and development for over 25 years. IWRC is a non-profit organization, part of Business and Community Services at the University of Northern Iowa. For more information, visit