Food Matters Partners' Food Waste Reduction Strategies, July - December 2023

Through NRDC's Food Matters initiative, partners were required to submit mid-engagement progress reports that highlight successes between July and December 2023

City of Nashville staff at a press event launching the Food Scraps Pickup Pilot, October 2023. 


Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

In partnership with NRDC’s Food Matters initiative, 21 city, county, and nonprofit organizations across the U.S. have made measurable progress in achieving food waste reduction goals. In these partnerships, NRDC provides technical assistance with city and county staff and local organizations in Albuquerque, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Lane County (OR), Los Angeles, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), and Washington DC, as well as with nonprofit partners Clean Memphis, Joint Venture (Santa Clara County, CA), Earthday365 (St. Louis), and the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. City staff and nonprofits receiving technical assistance in this phase of our work began their partnerships at various points in 2023; as part of their work with us, they were required to submit mid-engagement progress reports at the end of January 2024. These achievements listed below signify the substantial progress municipalities are making to combat food waste at the local level. 

Over six months, between July and December 2023, 15 partner cities expanded or initiated programs and policies to prevent food from going to waste, rescue and redirect surplus food, and/or compost food scraps. By developing and implementing programs to address food waste, cities can test out what works and what does not, build buy-in from communities and city leaders, and incrementally achieve climate action and food waste reduction goals. Notable initiatives launched in the past year include Project Reduce by Phoenix (restaurant engagement), the Food Scraps Pickup Pilot by Nashville (residential food scrap recycling collection), and the Food Recovery Program Ordinance by Boston (governmental coordination on surplus food donation), among others. Nine of the programs explicitly address equity, food access, and or food insecurity issues, including a food scrap composting program design in Albuquerque, a food pantry guide and food rescue assessment in Boston, and business engagement videos in Minneapolis. 

Community and Stakeholder Engagement

We have seen robust stakeholder and community engagement across all our partner cities, with over 150 city agencies, community members, and local stakeholders actively collaborating on food waste reduction strategies. Stakeholders involved in city food waste reduction projects represent health departments, planning and development authorities, food banks, gleaners, sustainable business forums, leadership councils, universities, task forces, and more. These types of engagements are crucial for gaining diverse perspectives from the community in effectively and collaboratively addressing complex issues within the food system. As a way to engage and educate the public on local food waste reduction projects, at least nine local food waste-related events were held across Albuquerque, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and St. Louis. 

Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative Stakeholder Event, December 2023.



Business Engagement

The cities of St. Louis, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Memphis held business challenges that engaged over 70 foodservice businesses (primarily restaurants). In nearly all cities, restaurants are the second-largest sector generating food waste (after the residential sector), so working with food businesses on food waste reduction strategies is a critical component of overall municipal food waste reduction. These challenges encourage restaurants and businesses to adopt practices that reduce the amount of food going to waste in their establishments. Four organics recycling collection services and 38 businesses actively participated in these efforts; business participants ranged from fine dining restaurants to breweries, cafes, bakeries, and even a dog bar. Cities that ran the challenges are exploring ways to continue to engage participants after the projects conclude, and some are offering the opportunity to enroll in sustainable business or restaurant associations for further support.   

Project Reduce celebratory event and waste audit conducted by city staff, January 2024.


City of Phoenix

Consumer Prevention Education

All Food Matters partners engaged in some form of food waste prevention messaging, garnering over 280,000 views of public-facing prevention materials through newsletters, social media, and trainings. Most prevention messaging is targeted to households since they are typically the highest generating sector of food waste in cities. Messaging can equip people with tools to reduce the amount of waste that they are generating at home and to maximize their food purchases. Educational and outreach efforts have included a diverse array of messaging vehicles such as social media posts, zines, newsletters, informal panels on community info boards, flyers, handouts, and magnets. Materials have been created in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Kurdish, Somali, and Arabic. 

Three Sisters Kitchen zine educating the public about compost, distributed freely at the Albuquerque Zine Fest in October 2023. 


Three Sisters Kitchen

Food Rescue

Food rescue plays a vital role in ensuring food gets to people by redistributing surplus food from restaurants or food businesses to individuals experiencing food insecurity. One important caveat about food rescue: it does not get at the underlying causes of hunger, so is not the ultimate solution to solving food insecurity in our country—but it is an essential component of reducing the amount of food going to waste as well as strengthening the emergency food system. Food rescue efforts across Food Matters cities in this time period engaged over 167 new food donors and 385 food rescue organizations. The city of Los Angeles’s Sanitation and Environment Food Rescue Program rescued and redirected over 12 million pounds of surplus food, while Clean Memphis’s Save the Food Restaurant Challenge donated almost 1,000 pounds of food, equivalent to over 800 meals. 

The city of Minneapolis shooting a series of short business engagement videos. 


City of Minneapolis Health Department 

Food Scrap Composting 

Many of our cities are continuing to make food scrap recycling more accessible through programs that encourage residents to compost their food scraps and other organic material. Food scrap composting initiatives in Chicago, Albuquerque, Madison, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and St. Louis collectively processed and composted nearly 80 tons of food scraps, resulting in the avoidance of 52 MTCO2e of greenhouse gases compared with landfilling. The City of Chicago launched its first-ever free Food Scrap Drop-Off Program in October 2023; as of early April 2024, over 4,600 households have signed up to participate and over 97 tons of food waste have been composted. Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) also established a Community Composting Pilot Program, through which approximately 2.3 tons of fruit/vegetable scraps have been composted so far. Nashville’s residential food scrap recycling collection pilot, launched in October 2023, is engaging 750 households over the course of one year. 

We are excited to see the continued success and further deployment of these strategies across multiple Food Matters cities. To receive more frequent updates about the Food Matters initiative, sign up for our newsletter at

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