Empower Cities to Prevent, Rescue, and Recycle

Up to 40 percent of food in the United States is never eaten. Cities, as major population centers and key decision makers, will play a critical role in changing that reality. Reducing the amount of food wasted within a municipality can help local governments address landfill challenges, fight food insecurity, and work toward curbing climate change. To seize those opportunities, NRDC is working with cities to create long-term, holistic approaches for tackling our wasted food challenge.

Courtesy the Nashville Food Project

Preventing food from going to 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. NRDC is developing a multipronged approach that encourages innovation by city governments and collaboration with community stakeholders. We work with cities to keep food from going to waste in the first place, ensure that appropriate surplus food reaches people in need, and direct remaining food scraps to be recycled rather than landfilled.

We have an innovative pilot project in 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 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 also assess how much surplus food could potentially be directed to people in need, quantifying the opportunity for increased food donation. In Denver specifically, we have projected the financial investments in food-rescue infrastructure that would be needed to fully realize Denver’s potential for food donation.

NRDC is partnering with stakeholders in Nashville 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.

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