Eleven cities across the U.S. will receive nearly a million dollars for sustainability efforts that benefit low-income neighborhoods. Cincinnati was awarded the largest grant, which will fund strategic, collaborative activities to prevent, recover, and recycle food waste. The initiative is led by the City of Cincinnati and Green Umbrella. Right now, edible food is contributing to climate change rather than addressing food insecurity in our community. Cincinnati’s project, Save our Food Cincy, seeks to change that.
The funding is through the Partners for Places matching grants program, which pairs city governments with philanthropy to support sustainability projects that promote a healthy environment, a strong economy, and well-being for residents. Partners for Places, led by the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, will provide $484,000 in funding to 11 cities, which will be matched by local funders. Cincinnati matching funders are Interact for Health, Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
Cincinnati’s funded project will help our region meet the EPA and USDA’s joint national goals for 50% food waste reduction by 2030, while improving the sustainability of our local food system. According to the 2016 ReFED Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste, the U.S. spends “over $218 billion…growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten…totaling roughly 63 million tons of annual waste.” The EPA estimates that “more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash” where it produces methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
In the Cincinnati region, Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District estimates that 20% of landfilled material is food waste. This is contributing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 57,817 cars on the road for a year. An average family of four wastes $1,500 a year in food they do not eat. Amidst this waste, a quarter of Tri-State adults experienced food insecurity this year, according to Interact for Health’s 2017 Community Health Status Survey.
This project will complement other efforts occurring in the region, including the City of Cincinnati’s 2018 Green Cincinnati Plan update, current conversations about how to return commercial scale food waste processing infrastructure to our region, All-In Cincinnati, the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Waste Action Plan, and Green Umbrella’s Waste Reduction Action Team’s campaign to reduce food waste.
“With food waste making up 20% of our waste stream and with 1 in 4 local residents being food insecure, this grant is a huge opportunity to increase healthy food access while making a dent in the amount of waste going to the landfill – currently averaging more than 5 lbs. per person per day” says Lauren Campbell-Kong, co-chair of Green Umbrella’s Waste Reduction Action Team.
Other grant activities will include expanding sharing tables in schools, working with institutional kitchens to reduce food waste and recover surplus food, fostering neighborhood composting through policy advocacy, and educating the public on best practices related to food waste issues. With grant funds, says Kristin Weiss, executive director, “Green Umbrella will also announce a $50,000 Save our Food Cincy Fund later this month to incentivize local food organizations and businesses to develop innovative and scalable food recovery efforts.”
Part of grant funds will be used to expand sharing tables in schools, like this Hamilton County pilot program (Photo credit: Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District)