Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund (TCE Fund) has released a report showing how a majority of food waste in North Texas is in fact dumped in landfills near communities of color and communities with low access to healthy food. These same communities would benefit from diverting food discards for donation or composting to support community gardens. Instead, they are made to suffer the impacts of landfill-related pollution from decomposing food waste, air pollution, truck traffic, and noise.
The report, entitled “Food and Organics Diversion in North Texas,” summarizes the status of food and organics waste in the region. TCE Fund conducted their analysis by mapping landfill locations and comparing landfill sites to data on demographics and food insecurity. They found, for example, that the largest landfill in the region, the McCommas Bluff Landfill, is in one “one of the worst census tracts for food access in the region, with about 75% of residents qualifying as both low income and living more than one mile away from a supermarket or grocery store.” McCommas Bluff Landfill is located in an area of Southern Dallas that is ninety-nine percent Latino and Black.
The findings are especially troubling in the midst of a health crisis. Since the start of the pandemic, some food donation nonprofits have seen the demand for food distributions triple as a result of economic hardship brought on by the virus. At the same time, vast amounts of food have gone to waste due to our inelastic, global food system’s inability to adjust to the pandemic. The pandemic has shown how important it is to have systemic solutions in place to support our most vulnerable community members, especially in the case of healthy food.
TCE Fund’s report explores solutions to food waste locally and nationwide. Municipal policies that require food enterprises to keep food discards out of the landfill by donating or composting them, for example, can increase the availability of donatable food and reduce food waste. Residential curbside composting also offers opportunities for reprocessing food waste into nutrient-rich soil for community gardens.
These strategies provide long-term solutions to reduce the majority of our food waste, which TCE Fund estimates to be over 2 million tons per year in North Texas. Increasing the availability of unused food for donation can also provide short-term relief for food insecure households. However, ending food insecurity long-term will require addressing its deeper causes, such as systemic poverty and racism.
Addressing the problems inherent in our global food system, both to end food waste and inequities in food distribution, will require solutions beyond what can be done at the local level.