NRDC Expands Regional Food Matters Project to Reduce Food Waste in 5 Great Lakes Cities and Counties

CHICAGO – NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) announced the expansion of the Food Matters Project in the Great Lakes region with the goal of furthering larger-scale change related to food waste throughout the region. Building on projects previously launched in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, as well as a rich history of work in selected model cities, the Great Lakes cohort will include Chicago, Cincinnati, Madison, Make Food Not Waste in Detroit, and the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio for Franklin County.

In the Food Matters Regional Initiative, NRDC and the participating cities and counties will collaborate to implement policies and programs to reduce municipal food waste while leveraging regional synergies. Cities often confront similar barriers when tackling food waste, including insufficient data and resources. The participants will network with one another, with NRDC, and with local partner organizations to set goals, develop programs to achieve those goals, and identify regional strategies that help maximize their resources. NRDC will work with each city to estimate their baseline food waste generation and food 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 opportunities for participating cities and counties to support and learn from each other and share successful strategies for on-the-ground project implementation.

Following are quotes from Mayors and leadership of the participating cities who shared their commitment to the project:

“We are delighted to join the Food Matters project as it aligns with our vision for a healthier and cleaner Chicago through partnership and community-based solutions across the city,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Food is a part of all of our lives, and we are committed to ensuring it nourishes our community rather than polluting our climate.”

“Cincinnati is proud of our reputation as a leader in sustainability,” said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. “We’re ready to further our partnerships and commitment to reducing food waste throughout the region.”

“The City of Madison is committed to advancing a healthy and equitable food system. Participating in the Food Matters regional cohort will help us reduce food waste in our community and advance our sustainability, racial equity, and healthy community goals,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

“I commend the work of our community leaders at Make Food Not Waste, FoodPLUS Detroit, Food Rescue US Detroit, and the Natural Resources Defense Council food waste reduction initiative to reduce food waste while simultaneously increasing access to healthy food. Detroit is on its way to increasing our recycling rate to 40% by 2022 and becoming one of the greenest cities in the US. This partnership is one more step in the right direction,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said.

“The Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative community leaders are addressing food waste to create a stronger, more sustainable local food system. We’re excited to elevate this work throughout the region and realize the benefits to our economy, our environment, and all our people,” said SWACO Board Member and Franklin County Board of Commissioners President Kevin Boyce.

“We are excited to launch the next cohort of cities in the NRDC Food Matters Regional Initiative,” said NRDC Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program Director Shelley Poticha. “Even in these challenging times, we have already seen cities step up to tackle food waste with new and robust strategies, and our partnership with the Great Lakes cities and counties will help create even more regional opportunities and strengthen inter-city relationships.”


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.

NRDC’s portfolio of work with cities includes original research estimating quantities and types of food wasted and opportunities to expand food rescue in U.S. cities; a toolkit of policies and programs for cities to tackle food waste; in-depth food waste initiatives with Baltimore, Denver, and Nashville; Regional Initiatives in the SouthEast and MidAtlantic; and an array of tools to help cities 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 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.

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.




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