29 Sep

Geographical Review Preview: The Limits of Food Waste Governance in Cities: Case Study of Dayton, Ohio

By: Daniel Warshawsky

What is the main purpose of your study? 

This research analyzes the causes of food waste, food purchasing patterns, roles of different institutions in food waste governance, and perspectives on solutions to food waste in Dayton, Ohio. 

Dayton Second Street Market

What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study? 

Food waste management is a difficult issue to overcome in complex metropolitan environments.

How does your study relate to other work on the subject?

Building on other studies on food waste, findings in this study suggest that Dayton area residents envision consumers as the primary source of food waste production and the most likely players to reduce food waste, even though food manufacturers, food retailers, and food businesses are central in the production, management, and reduction of food waste.

What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study? 

Finding Number 1: Although Dayton’s city government is supportive of food waste reduction programs, it does not have adequate political support or infrastructure in place to process food waste for food corporations and residents in the community. This pushes food waste management decisions to households. 

Finding Number 2: While food waste policy is often driven by land economics in the U.S. East Coast and progressive legislation in the U.S. West Coast, Midwestern cities such as Dayton, Ohio struggle to find sufficient motivating forces to promote food waste management at a systemic level.

Finding Number 3: Dayton residents reinforce the idea that the problem and solutions to food waste originate at the household level, even though food manufacturers and food retailers inevitably shape what foods are available to buy and in what quantities. In addition, most Dayton households do not have the time, interest, or capacity to process food waste.

What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study? 

This research highlights that many residents do not see food manufacturers, food retailers, or food businesses as key drivers in food waste management, even though they are arguably central institutions in the food system. This consumer-centric perspective may be contributing to a limited imagination about what is possible in food waste management, as urban governments may be constrained by a lack of support for more systematic approaches to food waste management at the metropolitan scale.

How does your research help us think about Geography? 

This study highlights how the scale of governance matters. In the case of this research, a range of city governments, businesses, non-profits, community groups, and households have engaged in food reduction efforts at the city scale. Most of these food waste reduction efforts have not been coordinated at the metropolitan scale. Therefore, given that most food waste in U.S. cities occurs at the end of the food system, an ad hoc food waste management approach has resulted in the uneven governance of food waste in many cities.

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Click here to read the abstract of this article.