Empower Cities with Holistic Food-Waste Reduction Strategies

Forty percent of food in the United States is never eaten. And cities, as major population centers and key decision makers, will play a critical role in meeting the country’s food-waste challenge. Reducing the amount of food wasted within a municipality can help local governments address landfill challenges, fight hunger, and work toward curbing climate change. To seize those opportunities, NRDC is working with cities to create long-term, holistic approaches to tackling food waste.

Courtesy the Nashville Food Project

Preventing food waste in the first place and rescuing wholesome foods for people in need can offer practical, low-cost solutions while also keeping food out of landfills. However, different city government departments are charged with handling waste issues, addressing hunger, and creating food policies, and these departments often do not coordinate with one another about food waste reduction strategies. NRDC is developing a multipronged approach that encourages coordination across such departments and with community stakeholders. Our model aims to include prevention and food rescue strategies as part of a holistic food waste reduction plan.

NRDC has begun partnering with stakeholders in Nashville, Tennessee, to develop a comprehensive plan and pilot an array of approaches to prevent wasting food, rescue surplus food for people in need, and recycle food scraps. Our Nashville Food Waste Initiative is bringing people from across the community together to amplify initiatives already underway and identify new strategies. We are working with Nashville’s mayor and local stakeholders to identify solutions that can serve as models for cities across the country.

In New York, NRDC has a long history working on solid waste and food-scrap recycling. We continue to push this important issue—making New York City a leader in composting and other forms of organic-waste management—and we are beginning to work with the City Council, schools, and others to prioritize reduction and recovery of food waste as well.

We have also launched an innovative project in the pilot cities of Nashville, New York City, and Denver to comprehensively estimate the amounts and types of food wasted at the city level. Understanding the amount of food that we waste—along with what portion may have been edible—and identifying some of the root causes of why we waste food in the first place are critical steps in designing strategies for action. We are also assessing how much surplus food could potentially be directed to people in need, quantifying the opportunity for increased food donation. In Denver specifically, we will also project the financial investments in food-rescue infrastructure that would be needed to fully realize Denver’s potential for food donation.

From our on-the-ground experience in these cities and other insights, we will develop and share practical strategies and tools that other cities can use to reduce food waste in their own backyards.

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