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Iowa families facing food insecurity have more options for their Thanksgiving tables with the help of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Food Storage Capacity Grant.
Created in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the grant assists with expanding food storage options for food banks, food pantries and other nonprofits to allow organizations to accept a wider variety of items.
In just the last two years, the DNR’s Land Quality Bureau has distributed 118 awards totaling more than $590,000. Nonprofits are able to put the funds toward ENERGY STAR rated refrigerators and freezers, walk-in coolers or freezers and shelving.
“Thousands of Iowans were facing food insecurity and when COVID hit, the need for food assistance greatly increased,” said Thomas Anderson with the DNR’s Land Quality Bureau. “This grant was a great opportunity to provide these funds at a time when it was clear that it was needed.”
Faith Temple United Pentecostal Church in Dubuque used the funds to fill one of its refrigerators with cheese to distribute and has been able to accept other refrigerated items.
Along with increasing storage space, those tools extend the shelf life of certain items and help with a large part of the DNR’s mission - to reduce food waste in Iowa.
According to the 2022 Statewide Materials Characterization Study, food waste is the most wasted material being landfilled by weight. Food waste accounts for about 19.2% of all material being landfilled – 14.2% of that being loose food and 4.6% packaged.
The grant helps reduce waste by allowing food banks and other nonprofits to accept more meat, dairy, produce and shelf-stable foods and store them for longer. That could include holiday favorites like turkey and basic ingredients like butter and milk.
“We’re adding weeks to shelf life,” Anderson said.
Food waste is an issue that harms environmental, economic and social sustainability in the state and nationwide. Stakeholders with the DNR’s Sustainable Materials Management initiative have identified food waste as a priority.
The Food Storage Capacity grants are distributed by the DNR’s Land Quality Bureau with funds set aside from the Solid Waste Alternatives Program, which works to reduce the amount of solid waste generated and landfilled in Iowa.
Nonprofit organizations can apply at any time or learn more about the grant at iowadnr.gov under the Waste Planning and Recycling tab.