Saving Food in Denver

When food goes to waste, so does everything it takes to get it to our plates. The environmental impacts are staggering—from massive amounts of water and farm land, to unnecessary climate pollution. At the same time, millions of Americans nationwide don’t have a steady supply of food.

The good news is, cities nationwide are uniquely positioned to tackle this problem. Last fall, NRDC, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, released a duo of Food Matters reports that looked at what we waste and how we can expand the amount of food we rescue in three U.S. cities—one of which was Denver.

Today, we’re proud to announce we’re partnering with the city of Denver, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, to help waste less food citywide—and set a model that cities across the country can follow. Together with NRDC, the City and County of Denver will integrate multiple strategies to prevent food from going to waste, rescue surplus food for those in need, and recycle food scraps.

There is a lot of potential to make an impact here. Among other things, our recent Food Matters reports found an average of 4.2 pounds of food per person was wasted at home every week in Denver, and 76 percent of that could have been eaten.

Our reports also revealed substantial potential to increase food donation in Denver. Specifically, up to 7.1 million additional meals annually could be donated in Denver, beyond current donations, under optimal conditions. And the city could meet as much as an additional 46 percent of the cities’ unmet food needs by maximizing food donation from retailers, institutions and other consumer-facing businesses located in the community.

Our collaboration with the city was announced today as part of Denver’s Food Action Plan 2020, which was created to fulfill the goals set forward in the Food Vision, including reducing the number of food insecure households by 55 percent and cutting the volume of food waste in residential garbage collection by 57 percent citywide by 2030.

Together, we’re aiming to reduce the amount of food being wasted in Denver homes and businesses by:

  • Participating in a public education campaign aimed at cutting food waste from its largest sources—consumers.
  • Engaging businesses through challenges and city-level technical assistance by the Certifiably Green Denver initiative, a program that works with local businesses to increase sustainable practices.
  • Encouraging surplus food donation by local businesses, engaging public health inspectors, and various forms of stakeholder engagement to address the food rescue resources gap.
  • Encouraging and incentivizing organics recycling and composting by residents.

When it comes to tackling food waste, taking relatively small steps can have a big impact, and help achieve more resilient, economically vibrant and equitable communities. We’re excited to dig into this initiative with the city of Denver and set a model for other cities to join us in keeping more good food on people’s plates, where it belongs.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Balkan

Director, Food Waste; Food & Agriculture Program

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