It is estimated that around 42 million Americans, or 12.9 percent of our population, are food insecure. Food insecurity rates are particularly high in New York City where more than 1.2 million people, or almost 15% of residents, do not have reliable access to sufficient food. At the same time, up to 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted every year. If we were to reduce our current levels of food waste by only 30%, that would be sufficient to help all food-insecure Americans.
Besides enormous societal and economic costs, food waste imposes environmental costs. The vast majority of our food waste ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than carbon.
Fortunately, New York decided to step up and tackle these challenges head-on. Earlier this year, the State Legislature passed the landmark Food Donation and Food Scrap Recycling Act that requires supermarkets, restaurants, and other large generators of food waste to donate their leftovers to food banks and send inedible food to a processing facility where it will be turned into fuel or composted.
New York City is also setting ambitious goals under its Zero Waste program. Most recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated the City’s dedication to expand its composting program citywide and eventually make food waste recycling mandatory.
There is State funding available for these projects. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced that the 2019 Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Grant Program is open for applications. This program was established in 2016 to provide 50/50 matching grants to cities, towns, villages, and counties for eligible climate change adaptation and mitigation projects.
Up to $11,000,000 in funds is available to localities to deal with existing environmental challenges through two types of projects: climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation. Eligible adaptation projects include those designed to directly address climate change threats or alleviate hazards in the community exacerbated by climate change such as increasing or preserving natural resilience, flood risk reduction, extreme heat preparation, or emergency preparedness. Climate change mitigation projects include those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the non-power sector. Reducing food waste and diverting it from landfills falls under this category.
As stated in DEC’s request for applications, municipalities are encouraged to invest in construction or installation of equipment that will facilitate acceptance of food waste at anaerobic digestion or composting facilities. Since methane leakage from landfills is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, the CSC Program will also provide substantial funding for the installation of new or more efficient landfill gas capture systems that could generate cleaner energy. Other potentially beneficial projects that will be eligible for funding might include implementation of food donation and waste collection programs in municipal buildings.
NYLCV has also been advocating for upgrading New York City’s Wastewater Treatment Plants in order to equip them to process food waste, and pushing Mayor de Blasio to direct more funding toward the residential food waste collection program.
All municipalities in New York State will be eligible to apply for funding. Application due date is July 26, 2019.