Jameson, M.1; Tancig, M.2
1Sustainable Agriculture and Community Food Systems Agent, UF/IFAS Leon County, Tallahassee, FL, 32301
2Commercial/Residential Horticulture Agent, UF/IFAS Leon County, Tallahassee, FL, 32301


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the US throws away 37 million tons of food waste annually. This waste combines with anaerobic conditions in landfills to create methane, a gas 25 times more harmful than CO2. Landfills comprise 18% of total methane emissions in the US, contributing to climate change. To decrease this problem, UF/IFAS Leon County agents conducted 18 hands-on workshops from 2017-2020 focused on reducing food waste. The main objectives of the workshops were to teach the community environmental benefits of recycling food waste and how to recycle and use food waste as a soil amendment. To accomplish these objectives, attendees were given digital copies of the presentation and factsheet, were asked to follow-up post-workshop, and received hands-on experiential learning. Workshops were either focused on vermiculture, where participants assembled bedding and Eisenia fetida worm species into multi-tiered vermicompost systems to take home, or thermophilic composting, where participants observed an active compost system, were taught how to use a compost thermometer, and assisted in flipping a pile. Of 145 participants surveyed, 81%, 83%, and 92% increased their knowledge of the benefits of recycling food waste, materials to create compost systems, and compost system maintenance, respectively. Follow-up consultations revealed many positive program impacts. For example, one workshop participant reported they started collecting five 5-gallon buckets of food waste weekly from both a local restaurant and coffee shop to make compost for their local community garden. Another follow-up consultation was with a Leon County librarian who brought the vermicompost system constructed at a workshop to the downtown library, where it has been in production for three years. A follow-up consultation with a participant who worked at a popular local plant nursery revealed that they took the vermiculture knowledge gained to start raising Eisenia fetida at the nursery and sold “Worm Composting Starter Packs” to the public that contained the factsheet created by Leon County Extension. In conclusion, this educational program effectively decreased food waste in Leon County and positively impacted the community by teaching participants the importance of recycling food waste and how to be successful at recycling food waste.

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