The USDA has allocated $ 2 million to 24 local governments for community projects to reduce compost and food waste, including 4 projects within the Food Matters Regional Initiative sites. These types of grants are critical to our country’s ability to keep food out of landfills – where it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas – and to promote healthy soils. The focus on community composting rejuvenates local food systems by promoting community organic recycling solutions that can complement commercial composting and offer unique opportunities for community benefit.
Jeffrey Smith pushes a wheelbarrow of damaged kale onto the compost heap at the Bedstuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH) urban farm in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn, New York City.
Composting is a naturally occurring biological process that breaks down organic matter, including food waste, into a soil conditioner solution that can return nutrients to the soil. Community composting occurs on a small scale in neighborhood gardens, schools, city parks, and other common spaces where it can lead to other benefits including social cohesion, strengthening the local economy, job creation, city beautification, and hyperlocal food sheds.
Food Matters partners will use the USDA grants to support the following projects:
- the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Composting Food Waste The program will support the long-term development of several small composting operations on city-owned lots across the city and serve as a model for other cities to emulate. A newly created position of sustainability specialist will be responsible for data collection and analysis, education and public relations, quality control and reporting for all coordinated locations.
- Pittsburgh’s urban agriculture solutions for organic waste management The project will identify a means of composting organic waste from inner-city operations with the aim of creating a city-wide alternative for organic residential waste to roadside composting. It will continue to build soil that strengthens the current urban agriculture, community composting, and food waste processing networks.
- the Cincinnati Community Composting Collaborative is a multi-tier pilot program that will include multiple small and medium-sized (<500 sq / ft) decentralized municipal food waste composting and drop-off points across the city. Existing composting companies and non-profit partners collect vegetative food scraps and material from municipal facilities, community gardens and various delivery points. Finished compost is used in several urban farming locations.
- The City of Madison is working towards its goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030, through the Community initiative to reduce food waste. The initiative will take a cross-sectoral approach involving local farmers to increase municipal composting options in the city and encourage local restaurants to reduce food waste.
NRDC sees these grant opportunities as a critical part of our ability to meet our national goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 from landfills and incinerators. These community grants to reduce compost and food waste will further the work already being done in the cities of Food Matters as well as in other communities and tribal communities across the country; We hope that the success of these projects will stimulate further federal funding for the future. Congratulations to the USDA for recognizing the importance of this work and to all fellows across the country!