Food Bank of Northern Nevada: Food waste recycling

Project title

Food Waste Recycling

Research question

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada needs to understand where streams of waste are being generated and what options are available to the Food Bank to optimize for cost-effective and efficient systems around food product finding its way into the food bank that ultimately is rendered waste and therein, improving our environmental impact.

What solutions or practices can achieve this?


The Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Inc. (Food Bank) was incorporated in 1983 as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of the State of Nevada. The Food Bank's mission is “Feeding the hungry today and solving hunger for tomorrow through community partnership.” The vision of the Food Bank is “Healthy Food. Every Person. Every Day.”

The Food Bank, a member of the Feeding America network, is the primary regional food distribution and support system serving food-insecure people in 13 counties across northern Nevada and 8 partial counties along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in northeastern California. It delivers an array of programs and services which together constitute a multi-level effort to solve hunger, serving approximately 91,000 people each month through direct services and partner agencies. The Food Bank’s most fundamental hunger relief work is the distribution of food to assist people who are food insecure. Donated and purchased food is collected, sorted, and delivered to clients via a network of 145 partner agencies spread across a 90,000-square mile service area. In 2019, the Food Bank and its partners distributed approximately 19.5 million pounds of food the equivalent of 18.2 million meals. In Washoe County, Kids Café offers free afterschool and summer meals for children at over 40 locations; Back-Pack Kids provides weekend food bags each week during the school year for homeless/chronically hungry students at 11 schools and 32 school food pantries offer convenient access to food for students’ families. Monthly food boxes and fresh produce delivered into 54 neighborhoods help 2,842 low-income seniors. Mobile Harvest distributes two million pounds of fresh produce and perishable foods into 43 under-resourced neighborhoods in our service area.

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada relies on donated food as part of its business model to collect food for distribution to people facing food insecurity. Unfortunately, not all of the donated product is useable. An estimated 554,459 pounds of donated product went to the landfill or pig farmers in a recent 12-month period because the food was damaged, expired, or unsafe to serve. This waste has an annual disposal cost to the Food Bank of $15,000 but an even greater impact on our community because of the environmental costs.
In order to understand, the true cost of the waste streams, we need to isolate waste that is distributed to the pig farmer from the costs to dispose of trash including office refuse, out of code donated food and rotten produce.

Additionally, costs do not factor in the cost to PICK UP grocery rescue, RECEIVE grocery rescue, PUT AWAY grocery rescue, PULL grocery rescue and DISPOSE of the waste deemed inadequate for distribution.

For every dollar that does not pay for landfill or waste cost, the Food Bank could convert those each dollar to provide an additional three meals.

One particular challenge in the Food Bank ecosystem is disposing of shelf stable canned or packaged food that comes into the food bank expired.


A summary of the waste streams internally in the Food Bank operation and a suggestions and/or best practices on how the products destined for the landfill can be eliminated or diverted for another purpose, and an outline of what those options are as well as the cost for implementation.

Suggested skills

  • Develop research protocols
  • Conduct literature reviews
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Review and edit data to ensure completeness and accuracy of information; follow up with subjects to resolve problems or clarify data collected
  • Summarize project results
  • Develop assessment and evaluation tools
  • Compile data for progress reports
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Writing proficiency

Agency representative

Shane Piccinini
(775) 331-3663