NRDC Food Matters Launches Two Regional Initiatives

The NRDC Food Matters team is excited to announce the next phase of our work to reduce food waste in cities.  

Starting with the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, we are launching a Food Matters Regional Initiative, with the goal of furthering larger-scale change related to food waste at a regional level. From a pool of regional applicant cities, we selected five cities to participate in each regional initiative, including previous partner cities as “hub cities” in each region.   

The cities participating in each regional cohort are: 

Mid-Atlantic

Southeast

Baltimore, MD (hub) Nashville, TN (hub)
Jersey City, NJ Asheville, NC
Philadelphia, PA Atlanta, GA
Pittsburgh, PA Memphis, TN
Washington, DC Orlando, FL

Cities often confront similar barriers when tackling food waste, including insufficient data and resources. Our cohorts will include city representatives who will network with one another, with NRDC, and with local partner organizations to set goals, develop workplans, and identify regional strategies that help maximize their resources. NRDC will work with each city to estimate their baseline food waste generation and rescue potential and to provide technical assistance on developing food waste strategies that help bolster their broader food systems, sustainability, and climate goals. The initiative will include convenings and networking opportunities for participating cities to support and learn from each other and share successful strategies for on-the-ground project implementation. 

This regional approach is the next phase in the long-term work that NRDC’s Food Matters team has been doing to reduce food waste in cities.  

In 2012, NRDC helped spark a national dialogue about the alarming amount of food that goes to waste in our country when we released “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill” (updated in 2017). Through this foundational piece of research, NRDC identified municipalities as a key intervention point for curbing food waste. 

Building on this idea, in 2015, we developed our pilot city-level food waste project in Nashville, the Nashville Food Waste Initiative, now led by a local organization, Urban Green Lab.

In 2017, NRDC, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, released a duo of Food Matters reports that estimated quantities and types of food wasted and opportunities to expand food rescue in three U.S. cities—Denver, Nashville, and New York City. Key findings included that two-thirds of food thrown out at the residential level could have been eaten, and there is a substantial amount of surplus food throughout city sectors. These findings led us to develop a toolkit of policies and programs for cities to tackle food waste.  

In 2018, we built on our toolkit and experience in Nashville to launch in-depth food waste initiatives with Denver and Baltimore, and to expand our Food Matters network of cities through partnerships with organizations such as the Urban Sustainability Directors Network

Our in-depth work with Nashville, Denver, and Baltimore provided us the opportunity to test many of our strategic approaches and develop additional tools to help prevent food from going to waste, rescue surplus food, and recycle food scraps, including implementing Mayoral restaurant challenges, training health inspectors to advocate for food waste strategies, and deploying our Save the Food consumer education assets. Some of the lessons learned during this work included the importance of a systems approach, including building cross-agency teams and engaging local partners.  

In the regional initiative, NRDC and the participating cities will collaborate to implement these tools and approaches while leveraging regional synergies. Our current engagements are based on a one to two-year timeline, with the potential to extend further. We also hope to include more city participants in the future, including expanding the regional approach to other regions in the U.S. 

We are excited to announce the launch of this regional food waste initiative, and anticipate sharing even more successes and strategies throughout the course of the project. 

About the Authors

Darby Hoover

Senior Resource Specialist, Food Waste Initiatives, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

Madeline Keating

City Strategist, Healthy People and Thriving Communities Program
Blog Post

Our Nashville Food Waste Initiative is building on the good work that's already being done in the city, bringing together people from across the community to document great initiatives already underway, identify new approaches to reducing the amount of food that goes to waste, and direct more surplus food to people in need.

Blog Post

Baltimore has set a target goal to reduce commercial food waste in Baltimore City by 50 percent and residential food waste by 80 percent by 2040.

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