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Closing the Loop: Food Waste and Insecurity

Written by: Jessica Navarro-Luviano and Rebecca Nenow

All underlined words are direct links to information source or resource webpage

Both in our country and Watauga County, we face the conundrum of coexisting food waste and food insecurity. According to a study done by Penn State, American households waste a third of the food purchased per year, on average. In 2018, 24% of the Municipal Solid Waste in the United States was food waste, and food was the largest contributor to landfills (EPA). When food goes to landfill rather than compost, not only is the food wasted, but the water, energy, land, and labor that went into growing the food are wasted as well. Additionally, as food breaks down in landfills, it produces large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas.

With so much food sent to landfill, the prevalence of food insecurity in our country seems counterintuitive. Food insecurity is defined as the limited or uncertain access to food (Save the Children). An estimated 37 million Americans, of which 11 million of those are children, suffer from food insecurity; with the numbers steadily rising due to the spread of COVID-19. North Carolina is rated 8th among U.S. states with a food insecurity rate of 16% and as of 2019 Watauga County faces rates as high as 30% (Watauga). Food security is a problem that affects the whole community and therefore can substantively be tackled with community efforts.

When we look to the community, we find solutions that close the loop between food waste and insecurity. Composting leftovers and food scraps deters from landfills and contributes instead to healthier community or personal gardens, providing a free, natural, and nutrient dense fertilizer for growth in the garden. Community gardens act as a supportive environment where community members can connect, serve, and give back all while providing locally grown food for their community members most in need of fresh produce. Food pantries allow community members to step in for one another, connecting the excess to the need.


Please email if you:

  • Have info about public compost drop off locations

  • Have info about food recovery drop off locations

  • Would like to add, edit, or remove information listed below


If you aren’t able to have a compost pile in your yard, or don’t have a yard, you can still compost by collecting your scraps and keeping them in a container in your freezer. This keeps the rotting compost from smelling or attracting bugs on your counter. When your freezer bag is full, carry it to a garden with a public compost drop off or contact B.A.D. Composting.

B.A.D Composting- a co-op which works towards teaching people how to garden and offer compost collection service. If you donate ($15 a month recommended but up to the individual) you become a member and services include compost pick up every other week, building compost bins, leaf pickup and raise bed and garden construction and maintenance. They now have a table at the Boone Winter Market where you can sign up or drop off your bucket. DM them on Instagram or by email to start your services!

IG: @b.a.d.composting or

Dinner2Dirt - A compost service that provides organic food waste disposal to local residents and commercial businesses of the High Country. Buckets for residential compost are available through High Country Food Hub (linked in title).


Seed Library - BRIWA program offering free seeds packaged in repurposed card catalogs. Multiple seed library locations in Watauga County and Ashe County offer open-pollinated and heirloom seeds to community members to grow in their own gardens. Gardeners can also save the seeds from those plants and return the seeds to a Seed Library.

Watauga Landfill - offers free mulch for county residents

336 Landfill Road (off Highway 421 East)

High Country Garden Team - a decentralized gardening resource where anyone can create a work day to for others to join and contribute to the success of anyone else’s garden. The garden team aims to combat food insecurity by teaching people how to grow their own food and create community around gardening.

Plant A Row for the Hungry (PAR) - PAR is a national people-helping-people program that asks individuals to grow an extra row in their garden to contribute to local food pantries and soup kitchens. By calling 828.262.1628, you can drop off your produce at the Health and Hunger Coalition without getting out of your car at 141 Health Center Dr # C, Boone, NC 28607. And it is tax deductible.

Garden Buddies - A program of The Gardens at Hospitality House where experienced gardeners are paired up with novice gardeners to teach gardening skills and grow friendships. Apply here.

Community Gardens: Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture’s community garden webpage contains information about multiple gardens around the area.

App State campus' three community gardens: Roots Garden, Sustainable Development Civic Project Garden, and the Child Development Garden. All three gardens offer a means of service-learning that foster sustainable on campus initiatives, one of which is the importance of composting. The Roots garden offers composting drop off for the university community while the SD Civic garden practices three bin composting and vermicomposting. While three bin outdoor composting may not be something everyone in the community can practice, there are services that teach you the basics of composting and offer pick up services.


Double Up Food Bucks - Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA) offers this program, which matches 1:1 EBT/SNAPS up to $20. In other words when you spend $1 dollar with your EBT card you get an extra $1 of Double Up Food Bucks! This program allows those with less means to still access healthy, locally grown produce. Food bucks can be used at the Watauga County Farmers Market and King Street Market in the Summer, the Boone Winter Farmers Market, and the year-round High Country Food Hub, where local produce is ordered online and picked-up on Wednesdays.

252 Poplar Grove Rd (Downtown Boone)

Farmers' Markets: IG @boonewinterfarmersmarket @kingstreetmarket @wataugacountyfarmersmarket @highcountryfoodhub

Watauga Food Not Bombs offers dry goods, prepared meals, and fresh produce when funds are available. They also rescue potentially discarded food to use in prepared meals. They offer drop offs and pick-ups according to personal needs, and require no personal information.


High Country Food is Free - Food is Free Project is a worldwide organization working to grow and disperse food in local communities.

IG: @HighCountryFoodIsFree

The Little Free Pantry - located at 130 Poplar Grove Road Connector Boone, NC 28607, provides space for people to drop off food 24/7. Everyone is anonymous in the process and for the most part the pantry has a steady flow in donations with the “grab and go” items being the most popular such as: granola bars, peanuts, pop-tarts, crackers, and canned goods with pop-top lids. IG: @littlefreepantryboone

Free Store - under East Hall of Appalachian’s campus provides food and personal care items for members of the university community.

IG: @sustainappalchian

Hospitality House - The Bread of Life Community Kitchen at the Hospitality House is the only kitchen in the High Country serving 3-meals-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year. Meals are offered at no charge and 95% of the time are made from donations. Visit the link to see what time meals are served, volunteer to serve a meal, or for information about their food pantry.

IG: @hosphouse

Health and Hunger Coalition - offers a fresh food pantry, food recovery program for grab-and-go meals, and starter packs when you sign up for Plant A Row

IG: @hungerhealthcoalition

F.A.R.M. Cafe: Feed All Regardless of Means. This restaurant is Boone’s community café where food is on a pay-as-you-can basis, or work in exchange for food. Due to COVID-19, only to-go meals and curbside orders are available Tues - Fri.


F.A.R.M. Full Circle - A food recovery and redistribution program of FARM Cafe. Imperfect and excess food is gathered from local producers and distributors, prepared and cooked by volunteers and then distributed to pantries and shelters around town. All unused food scraps are then composted, diverting over 15 TONS of food from the landfill since their beginning.

IG @F.A.F.M.fullcircle

Together, these programs and services connect the loop between food waste and insecurity.

What next:

- Pick one item on this list and take action!

- Plan meals to reduce leftovers. Actually eat your leftovers.

- Compost your food scraps - sign up for a program, save your scraps in your freezer, or make a compost pile in your backyard.

- Grow food for yourself and others

- Donate food to a local pantry

- Volunteer to serve food or deliver food

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