Stepping Stones Emergency Housing

Stepping Stones


What: Adding single stream recycling collection and Food to Hogs organics recycling.

Why: To find a more responsible outlet for the large quantities of donated food that they can’t use and educate residents about recycling.

How: Utilized Anoka County’s recycling grant program and Waste Wise assistance to get bins and signs and provide education.

Results: Diverting over 39,000 pounds of food waste and 2,458 pounds of additional single stream recycling from the trash stream annually.

Stepping Stones Emergency Housing provides housing to 66 men and women as young as 18 years old. In addition to providing housing, Stepping Stones also provides daily meals to all current residents. In providing this meal service, Stepping Stones is thankful to receive donations from several entities. While these donations are vital to Stepping Stone’s ability to extend care to so many people in need, they are often unable to utilize the vast amounts of food donations. Prior to meeting with Waste Wise, all of this food waste was ending up in the trash.

Following a meeting with Waste Wise to identify opportunities to improve recycling on all fronts, Stepping Stones was able to use Anoka County’s non-residential recycling grant program to obtain bins and signs to implement a “Food to Hogs” recycling program alongside a new single stream recycling program. In addition to getting bins and signs, Anoka County was able to cover the costs of the new food recycling pick-up service, and Waste Wise was able to provide the education and technical know-how to ensure Stepping Stones would collect acceptable materials and provide clean food to feed Barthold Farms’ livestock.

With everything in place, Stepping Stones was able to begin single stream and food waste recycling. Cafeteria Manager, Jordan Heaps, was on board from the beginning and has been able to collect the unused food and also educate residents to dispose of their uneaten food in the food waste recycling bins. The result has been an average of nearly two yards of organics (food waste) recycling every week leading to an estimated 39,000 pounds annually. Beyond the food recycling, Stepping Stones also paired all of their trash receptacles with single stream recycling bins and are diverting about 2,500 pounds annually. “Our dumpster is half full compared to before we started all of our recycling efforts,” commented Heaps when describing their achievements.

Stepping Stones is excited to be extending the same level of care to the environment they extend to their residents. Heaps added “We feel better about what we’re doing, and people staying here are happy to learn that we’re doing it.” Stepping Stones continues to improve recycling and works with Waste Wise as questions arise to make sure this program is sustaining its benefit well into the future.