NRDC is working with partners to develop city-based solutions to the enormous challenge of food waste in the United States.
Up to 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted, contributing to extensive environmental, economic, and societal impacts. But solutions to the enormous challenge of food waste can create equally extensive benefits, particularly at the local level. By reducing the amount of food that is thrown out, cities can stabilize their waste management costs and make progress toward climate and sustainability goals. By rescuing surplus food, municipalities can address food gaps in local communities. And by recycling food scraps, cities can minimize what goes into landfills and incinerators.
Food Waste in Cities
The Food Matters project at NRDC partners with cities to achieve meaningful reductions in food waste through comprehensive policies and programs. Currently, we’re partnering with city agencies and local collaborators in several regions in the United States to drive dramatic, system-wide waste reduction. This work builds on our deep involvement in cities including Baltimore, Denver, Nashville, and New York City to drive dramatic, system-wide food waste reduction. A key component of the Food Matters initiative is peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing—providing a network in which best practices can be shared and evolved.
With NRDC’s deep technical expertise and lessons learned from model cities, Food Matters is catalyzing the creation of replicable city-based solutions, helping to standardize market-supported best practices, and spurring meaningful progress.
Tools for Cities
Tackling Food Waste in Cities: A Policy and Program Toolkit
Because cities are often responsible for waste management, land use, and local health and food regulations, they are on the front lines of reducing food waste.
Food Matters: What We Waste and How We Can Expand the Amount of Food We Rescue
Cities can be leading players in catalyzing innovation to reduce the amount of food going to waste.
Our compilation of NRDC-produced and other recommended resources supports cities as they implement policies and programs to reduce food waste.
Feeding a City: Food Waste and Food Need Across America
The first step in reducing municipal food waste is data gathering: understanding the amounts and sources of wasted food at the local level, as well as the amounts and sources of surplus food that potentially could be rescued instead of wasted.
Food Waste Strategic Communications and Partnership Guide
Tackling food waste involves the need for diverse strategies in a variety of policy and program areas, and communicating them effectively is essential to building community support for programs and policies aimed at reducing food waste.
Food Waste Generation and Food Rescue Potential Baseline Calculator Guide
Gaining a better understanding of the amounts and sources of wasted food, as well as the amounts and sources of surplus food that potentially could be rescued, is the ideal starting point for ensuring a successful city strategy to reduce food waste.
Assessing Progress on Food Waste Interventions at the City Level
Cities engaging in food waste initiatives are increasingly interested in assessing how effective those initiatives are, in order to determine where to allocate current and future resources for food waste policies and programs.
Food Waste Restaurant Challenge Guide
Cities interested in reducing food waste should consider ways to involve business sectors in their efforts, particularly those sectors most often linked to higher food waste generation, such as food service.
Increasing Public Awareness About Food Waste Prevention Guide
Given the magnitude of consumer household food waste, cities can play an important role in both raising awareness and providing action-oriented strategies that consumers can implement in their homes to prevent food from being wasted in the first place.
Engaging Health Departments: Overview Guide
Health departments, particularly health inspectors, are uniquely positioned to educate and inform food facilities about food waste reduction and food donation. In this guide, we outline some of the ways that health inspectors can help educate food facilities on how to prevent wasted food and donate surplus food.
Food Rescue Client Survey Guide
Surveys can provide critical feedback on issues like satisfaction with the quality and cultural appropriateness of the food offered, barriers to accessing food support, and suggestions for making the city’s food rescue system more nimble, responsive, and reflective of community aspirations.
Food Donations from Farms Guide
In many communities, there is a particularly acute need for donation of fresh fruits and vegetables and other farm-fresh products,and whether growers live in surrounding areas or are part of the growing “urban ag” movement, they can play an important role in addressing food insecurity.
Food Rescue Landscape Assessment Guide
This guide shares some of NRDC's key lessons learned and is accompanied by an array of additional tools to help cities conduct food rescue landscape assessments of their own.
Food Scrap Recycling Landscape Assessment Guide
Our assessment offers guidelines for cities to identify current capacity, key stakeholder feedback on the needs, opportunities, and barriers related to expanding food scrap recycling.
Guide to Making a Public Commitment on Food Waste
Making a public commitment to reduce food waste is an important way to harness city leadership and constituent buy-in. It also increases accountability and can inspire other cities.
Guide for Hiring a City Food Waste Coordinator
Best practices for creating a city staff position dedicated to food waste reduction, cross-agency collaboration, work planning, and sourcing potential funding.
Guide for Funding Food Scrap Recycling
Addressing food waste requires sustained financial support, both public and private. Here are some tips for funding food scrap recycling and food rescue strategies at the city level.
- State-Based Food Waste Policy Gap Analysis and Inventory Reports
- Model Ordinance on Mandatory Reporting for Large Food Waste Generators: With and Without Commentaries
- Food Matters: Baltimore, Denver, and Nashville Case Studies
- Model Compost Procurement Policy: With and Without Commentaries
- Model Executive Order on Municipal Leadership on Food Waste Reduction: With and Without Commentaries
- Liability Protections and Safe Food Donation
- Model Ordinance Establishing a Pay-As-You-Throw Program for Residential Municipal Solid Waste: With and Without Commentaries