Bexley already has launched a comprehensive, curbside food-waste recycling program but is looking to offer further solutions on how to reduce food waste.

With that in mind, the city's Environmental Sustainability Advisory Council held a March 2 screening at the Drexel Theatre of the documentary "Wasted," followed by a panel discussion.

The discussion, which ESAC member Kathy Hayden moderated, featured Mayor Ben Kessler; Brian Ferrier, regional director of the Giant Eagle grocery store chain; Amy McCormick, corporate-affairs manager at the Kroger grocery store chain; Lucy Schroder, Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative coordinator at the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio; and Brian Roe, a Bexley resident and professor of agriculture and environmental economics at Ohio State University and lead faculty member of Ohio State's food-waste collaborative.

In addition to the food-waste recycling program, Bexley's ban on plastic bags that began on Jan. 1 and a subsequent ban on single-use plastic utensils that will become effective in January 2021 are among the city's ongoing environmental initiatives, Kessler said.

"In the city of Bexley, you almost need curbside food-waste, comprehensive food waste (recycling) in order for a plastics ban to make sense," Kessler said. "It all fits together."

Giant Eagle's Market District Express store, 2250 E. Main St., is designed so it stocks only enough produce that customers will buy and not end up wasting away on shelves, Ferrier said.

"Just the sheer amount of products that we attempt to sell has been tempered with smaller layouts that are actually very busier, when we look at them on a dollar-per-square-foot basis," he said. "We like to look at, where does sustainability meet food awareness meet food security meet profit meet community. I think that store is a very good example."

McCormick said Kroger conducts periodic audits of its store at 2000 E. Main St. near Bexley and all of its locations to ensure that the most in-demand products are in stock and that excess is either donated or recycled in an environmentally-sound way. In 2017, the company created a Zero Hunger/Zero Waste social-impact program, which includes collaborations with organizations such as ReFED, Feeding America food banks and the World Wildlife Fund.

"We really narrowed our focus to what we're focused on doing in the future and for us, that is removing all waste -- including food waste -- from our stores by 2025," she said.

Schroder said SWACO's Food Waste Initiative includes a pilot program with the World Wildlife Fund to work with central Ohio schools to reduce food waste.

"They sort out their food waste in the cafeteria so the students understand how much they're sending to the landfill," she said. "Also, I've developed my own food-waste curriculum and lesson plans and tools for teachers to use to talk about ... your food comes from all the way around the world and you need to understand what's going into it and what we lose when we send it to the landfill."

Ferrier said Congress is considering federal legislation that would require food manufacturers to clarify "sell by" and "best by" dates and educate consumers that when those dates expire, food may still be safe to eat.

"It seems to be a bipartisan issue, which is pretty rare today in the U.S.," he said. "We are hoping that will be a federal initiative to harmonize that labeling and then allow firms to be able to remove dates because people do misinterpret them as a 'safety' date, and it's very rarely the case."

The ESAC will hold the city's annual Green Bexley Fair and Greater Bexley Cleanup from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 25 at Maryland Elementary School.

For more information, go to greenbexley.org.

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