NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and SWACO (Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio) have partnered with the City of Columbus and Franklin County to announce the recipients of the Central Ohio Food Waste Reduction Capacity Grant, supporting community-driven initiatives that advance the central Ohio region's efforts to reduce food waste 50% by 2030.
“Food waste is a critical global climate issue,” said Madeline Keating, City Strategist at NRDC. “Investing in localized solutions to curtail food waste unlocks a host of economic, environmental and community benefits like improved soil health, new job opportunities, more efficient food distribution capabilities and so much more. We hope Franklin County’s food waste reduction efforts can help inspire other counties and cities to enact change for the betterment of their communities.”
“Food waste in central Ohio accounts for the single-largest source of landfill material and when uneaten food scraps are thrown out, the time, labor, water, land and nutrients used in getting food through every step in the food chain are wasted,” said Joe Lombardi, SWACO’s Executive Director. “SWACO and the NRDC have been collaborating on this important community and environmental issue for several years, and we’re pleased to be able to leverage that partnership in order to bring greater attention to and support for the diversion work taking place across our diverse central Ohio community.”
The total grant award of $36,800 will be distributed across eight Franklin County-based organizations. The work of each of these organizations is helping to advance the priorities of the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative (COFWI); a diverse set of organizations helping to build a unified approach towards halving food waste in the region by 2030. In addition to capacity funding, grantees were invited to present at the second annual Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative Convening in mid-October; an event that will bring together partners across sectors in central Ohio, working on food waste reduction and opportunities to elevate the Central Ohio Food Waste Action Plan.
The eight organizations selected for funding are Crossroads World Outreach Ministry, Cultivate Community Development Corporation (Cultivate CDC), Food Rescue US – Columbus, Ohio Hispanic Coalition, Sunbury Urban Farms, Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM), Food Soldier, and Franklinton Farms. Projects range from purchasing cold storage for WARM and Food Soldier to increase the amount of perishable foods that can be rescued and redistributed to offering education on backyard chicken composting (Sunbury Urban Farms) and household and community composting (Cultivate CDC). Across the board, the projects seek to prevent food from becoming waste, rescuing and redistributing high-quality surplus food, and recycling remaining food scraps; ultimately working to build a more resilient and less wasteful regional food system.
“The support of the Food Waste Reduction Capacity Grant will allow the organization to develop the foundation of a new initiative in food waste education that is bi-lingual, bi-cultural, and responsive to a community that lacks knowledge and engagement in food waste practices that benefit the city of Columbus,” said Josué Vicente, Executive Director of the Ohio Hispanic Coalition.
Selected applicants are nonprofit organizations within Franklin County who reducing food waste through food donation, food scrap composting or other programs that divert food waste from the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill. Black, Indigenous, People of Color-led and/or -centered organizations who have annual budgets less than $500,000 or less than five (5) full-time equivalent staff positions were strongly encouraged to apply. Applicants were scored using a public facing weighted scoring rubric based on focus area (40%), demonstrated need (30%), and diversity, equity and inclusion (30%). The selection committee was comprised of representatives from SWACO, City of Columbus, Franklin County, and NRDC.
“The City of Columbus Climate Action Plan set a goal of reducing organic waste by 90% by 2050, and the work of these local organizations will advance efforts to divert food waste from being landfilled,” said Jennifer L. Gallagher, Director of the Department of Public Service, City of Columbus. “The city is committed to providing services to residents to reduce food waste, starting with a pilot program offering drop-off locations for food scraps to be composted.”
SWACO has collaborated with NRDC since 2021 in the Food Matters Initiative to achieve meaningful reductions in food waste in central Ohio. The grants program was based upon NRDC’s “Input with Impact” case study on food waste reduction capacity grants programs in Denver and Baltimore.