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Minnesota not on track to meet food waste goal
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Nearly half of all food in Minnesota’s landfills comes from a home kitchen.

Almost 20% of Minnesota’s garbage is food waste and households are the largest producers of it. Food waste breaks down without oxygen and produces methane, a gas with heat-trapping potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Wasted food accounts for at least 2.6% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — that’s the equivalent to more than 37 million cars, or one is seven vehicles on the road, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“When food is wasted so are the resources that went into producing it. When we account for growing, and the distribution of wasted food, that’s where the large environmental impacts occur. This includes diesel for tractors and trucks, electricity for cool storage, and all of its subsequent emissions as well,” MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop during a recent roundtable discussion on the issue.

She added that better meal planning, prepping and food storage are key to ensuring food is consumed rather than wasted. Minnesota is currently not on track to meet its goals to lower its greenhouse gas emissions, nor is the state on track to meet the agency’s strategic plan to reduce food waste from households and businesses, Bishop warned.

“By generating less, rescuing, and recycling more we can do this together. Clearly we have work to do,” Bishop said.

“Wasted food” is avoidable waste created from edible and uneaten food for a variety of reasons be it overproduction, spoiling or unappetizing. “Food waste” is unavoidable waste from food scrap which can not normally be consumed, but may be composted.

Composting food is a better option than putting it into a landfill, but that still results in 20 times the greenhouse gas emission compared to prevention.

Reducing the amount of food waste is not only a significant opportunity to mitigate negative environmental impacts, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also save Minnesotans money.

A Minnesota family of four could save $1,200 per year if they reduce their food waste, according to the MPCA. Meanwhile, one in 12 households in Minnesota struggle with food insecurity.

“One report suggests that if just one third of our wasted food was redirected it would more than cover our nation’s food insecurity,” Bishop said.

The Northfield Food Rescue Program was one of the four waste reduction organizations who took part in the roundtable to discuss how they’re addressing the issue with grants from the MPCA. South Central Minnesota Food Recovery Project in Mankato, The Good Acre/Local Emergency Assistance Farm Fund in St. Paul and Loaves and Fishes in Minnesota also spoke at the roundtable.

The Northfield project is a collaboration between Carleton College, the city of Northfield and Northfield’s Community Action Center. The action center houses a food shelf focused on reducing waste and increasing refrigeration in a rural setting, according to Anika Rychner, senior director at the Community Action Center.

Food shelf clients were requesting more fresh produce, lean meats, dairy and foods that needed to be refrigerated. Knowing that there wasn’t adequate refrigeration at the Community Action Center, the facility teamed up with Carleton College to receive a MPCA grant to install walk-in refrigeration and freezers, according to Rychner.

“This refrigeration is significant because it allows us to rescue over 8,000 pounds of fresh food each week in Northfield from our local retailers, and it keeps the food fresher for longer for human consumption. It’s also increased our ability to purchase and preserve more fresh food through food banks, as well as free federal commodity foods through TEFAP,” Rychner said.

Meanwhile, Carleton students lead a food recovery network, which does regular dining hall recovery, retail rescue and farm rescue of food.

Tricks to reduce wasted food

Meal prep and create a shopping list with ingredients for a specific meal. Find recipes which use ingredients you already have at home.

Plan out the portions of your meals and keep perishable foods fresh by preparing meals as soon as possible.

Use smaller plates and utensils, a trick which encourages smaller portions, effectively limiting leftovers.

After the meal, place leftovers in the fridge as soon as possible, in smaller individually sized containers, which make them easier to grab and go meals.

Identify foods to eat first, and remind people in the household to eat those items first.

Compost food scraps in your backyard compost or if there is a compost site nearby.

Visit lovefoodhatewaste.com to find recipes to use food scraps to make new meals.

Restoration will stabilize, secure downtown Faribault building
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After years of back and forth between city staff and the building’s owners, a major restoration project appears set to stabilize one of downtown Faribault’s most troubled properties.

At its monthly meeting, Faribault’s Heritage Preservation Commission heard from architects about efforts to tuckpoint and restore the front facade at 216/218 Central Ave. The historic downtown building has been identified as a safety risk for 15 years.

Darrell and Luella Jensen have owned the building for the last 55 years, along with several other buildings throughout town. Jensen blames the building’s instability on construction in the area in 2008, which he says disturbed the building’s foundation and facade.

Over the years, the Jensens have always responded to meet the city’s enforcement requests. However, “quick fix” solutions like securing bricks and adding a steel beam on the facade haven’t improved the building’s structural issues.

Commissioners grilled the contractor, Dan O’Leary of Restoration Services, on the latest plans for the property, including the tuckpointing work as well as new helical bars in the joint space of all step cracks, and removal and replacement of limestone window sills.

Last fall, the Jensens turned to Restoration Services for initial repairs, including foundation stabilization, reconstruction of a steel beam, and removal and replacement of several windows. The project cost $50,000, about one-third of that budget devoted to protective scaffolding.

While the Heritage Preservation Commission had an existing relationship and positive impression of Restoration Services, it expressed concern at the time about a lack of details on the specific project as well as lack of long-term vision for the building.

This much larger and more ambitious project was designed to address many of those concerns. David Hvistendahl, the Jensens’ attorney, promised that the project will take care of the most pressing public safety issues.

The HPC remains determined to see the building not only made safe but restored to its former glory. A key aspect of that is the building’s decorative cornice — a signature hallmark of the building in question and downtown Faribault in general. Due to a lack of maintenance over the years, the cornice had to be removed with the HPC’s permission. It’s since been reconstructed and is expected to be a cornerstone of the restored building’s historically faithful visual appeal.

After years of struggles over the building’s health, which led at one point to criminal charges against the Jensens that were ultimately dismissed out, the HPC wasn’t simply going to take O’Leary’s word for it that the latest repairs would provide a real solution.

Photos in the commission’s packet highlighted just how deep the facade’s structural rot, most of it not visible from the Main Street, has become.

In line with the HPC’s guidelines, Restoration Services will focus on preserving as much of the initial material as possible. Commissioners even expressed hope that the building’s painted accents could match their original color.

Community Development Coordinator Kim Clausen emphasized that the project goal is much more modest than a full, expensive restoration. While Restoration Services will try to stay historically authentic, the firm is also aware of its budgetary constraints.

“We’re just trying to get the building to the point where it’s safe and stable,” Clausen said. “It’s not a full-fledged restoration.”

From Pakistani heroine to children of divorce: Faribault Middle broadens students' reading list
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This year, Faribault seventh graders are reading “Amal Unbound,” a book about a teenage girl who lives in Pakistan. Other books introduced in the district’s middle school feature main characters who are Syrian, Muslim and Hindu.

The seventh grade language arts curriculum lacked diverse choices of reading material, so staff revamped the curriculum with new options. The new reading selections focus on four units: courage, culture, coming of age, and college and careers. New novels, including graphic novels, explore topics like addiction in the home, going to a school where most students speak a different language, being raised by grandparents and the loss of a parent.

The hope through these books is to give students to either see their own experiences reflected in the characters or gain an understanding of different experiences through the characters.

“A quick glance of the books will convince you there are wonderful changes going on,” said Zwagerman, who brought some of the books to the meeting for the board to view.

Equity is an important topic for Faribault Public Schools this year, and Faribault Middle School has been making improvements in this area in terms of curriculum, accessibility, and opportunities.

Kelly Zwagerman, a media literacy teacher at Faribault Middle School and a member of the school’s equity team, presented to the School Board the ways the middle school has been addressing equity, equality and diversity in the classroom. The presentation is one the equity team put together for staff members’ professional development.

The music programs at the middle school have also become more inclusive. Zwagerman said money is not a barrier for students who want to play instruments or join music programs. The music staff, she said, has partnered with different groups in the community to make music education accessible to all students. If a student lacks the appropriate attire for concerts, a free clothing closet has what they need. There are also scholarships for participation in regional and statewide honor performance ensembles. One program, called Border CrosSing, ensures every concert reflects the cultural reality of the students on stage as well as the audiences.

Distance learning has given the physical education department an opportunity to diversify its offerings. On Wednesday, which continues to be a distance learning day, a few staff members have done lessons outdoors. In collaboration with the Faribault Community School, the physical education department has offered hiking, sledding, broomball, geocaching, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating.

As far as ways to improve equity at the middle school, Zwagerman said: “I like that we have that directive coming ‘top down,’ but I think we need some ‘bottom up’ leadership with equity. We need to believe in equity and understanding what that means in our district. Right now I just see it coming top down.”

Academy updates

FHS Assistant Principal Joe Sage and Special Education teacher Stacy Fox shared positive data on the Ninth Grade Academy, which helps students build the skills they need to succeed in high school and beyond.

“Anyone at any point who wants to walk into a class unannounced, you will see top notch teaching,” Sage said. “Discussions are loud because kids are talking.”

Comparing the first two quarters of eighth grade with the first semester of ninth grade, there was a 50% decrease in the F’s distributed to current Ninth Grade Academy students. In classes specific to the Ninth Grade Academy only, including science, social studies and English, this cohort of students saw a 70% decrease in total F’s.

Apart from improving their grades, Ninth Grade Academy students reported in a recent survey that they feel supported and believe they are reaching their potential within the program. About 81% of students said they either strongly agree or agree that they have at least one teacher to talk to within the Ninth Grade Academy. Nearly 94% of students said they strongly agree or agree that Ninth Grade Academy has helped them become more successful.

“I love the numbers,” said Board member Casie Steeves. “ … I wish there was a program like this when I was in ninth grade.”