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Vermont Takes Major Step Toward Reducing Wasted Food

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EAST HARDWICK - On a recent morning, the pigs at Snug Valley Farm happily snuffled up pieces of artisan baguettes from Patchwork Bakery just down the road.

The pigs diet changes with the season. As the summer moves on, excess and unmarketable vegetables from other local farms will supplement the hay and grain they receive, farmer Ben Nottermann explained while breaking up the loaves into pig-size chunks.

"Food waste is about 40 to 50 percent of what they eat," Nottermann said, as he knelt in front of the youngest of the farm's pigs who approached him curiously. "Pigs are omnivores; it's good for them. And they're nice treats, it keeps them friendly."

Each week, Patchwork Bakery and Farm averages 20 to 30 unsold loaves of bread. Even though the loaves may be a little past their prime, some are welcomed by the local food shelf, said bakery co-owner Anne McPherson, and a few might be cut into croutons before the rest are tossed onto the farm's compost pile or fed to pigs raised by neighboring farmers like the Nottermanns.

"A lot of work goes into that bread," said McPherson. "It's good that something else gets to create energy out of it. I'd rather it go into pig meat than our compost pile, and we'll get some pork back. It all goes around to feed us. It's a circle."

Ideally, all surplus food would follow a similar productive reuse path, but that is not currently the case. Around the world, experts like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimate that about 40 percent of the food that is grown, raised or caught is wasted. According to a 2012 NRDC report, "This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion a year, but the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions."             
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