USDA Community Compost Grants Benefit Food Matters Cities

USDA has granted $2 million to 24 local governments for community compost and food waste reduction projects, including 4 projects within the Food Matters Regional Initiative locations. These kinds of grants are critical to our country’s ability to keep food out of landfill—where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas—and promote healthy soils. Focusing on community composting rejuvenates local food systems by promoting community solutions to organics recycling, which can supplement commercial composting and offer unique opportunities for community benefits.

Jeffrey Smith pushing a wheelbarrow of damaged collard greens to the compost pile at the Bedstuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH) urban farm in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn, New York City.

Preston Keres/USDA/FPAC

Composting is a naturally occurring biological process of decomposing organic matter, including food scraps, into a soil amendment that can return nutrients back to the earth. Community composting occurs on a small-scale in neighborhood gardens, schools, city parks and other community spaces where it may lead to other advantages including social cohesion, uplifting local economies, jobs creation, urban beautification, and hyper-local food sheds.

Food Matters partners will be using the USDA grants to support the following projects:

  • The Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Food Scrap Composting program will support the long-term development of several small-scale composting operations on city-owned properties throughout the city, and serve as a model for other cities to replicate. A newly created Sustainability Specialist position will be responsible for data collection and analysis, education and outreach, quality control and reporting for all of the coordinated sites.  
  • Pittsburgh’s Urban Agricultural Solutions for Managing Organic Waste project will identify a means of composting organic waste generated from internal city operations with the aims of scaling to a city-wide residential organic waste alternative to curb-side composting. It will further build soil that fortifies current networks of urban agriculture, community composting, and food waste processing businesses.
  • The Cincinnati Community Composting Collaborative is a multi-layered pilot program that will include multiple small and medium scale (<500 sq/ft) decentralized community composting and food waste drop off sites across the city. Existing compost businesses and non-profit partners will collect vegetative food scraps and material from city facilities, community gardens, and various drop off locations. Finished compost will be used at multiple urban agriculture sites.  
  • The City of Madison is working towards their 50% food waste reduction by 2030 goal through the Community Food Waste Reduction Initiative. The initiative will take a multi-sector approach involving local farmers to ramp up community compost options in the city and engage local restaurants on food waste reduction.

NRDC views these grant opportunities as a critical component of our ability to achieve our national goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. The first priority in the US Food Loss and Waste Action Plan is to invest in food waste prevention and keep waste out of landfills and incinerators. These Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction grants will boost the work already occurring in Food Matters cities and in other municipalities and tribal communities across the country; we hope the success of these projects will inspire more federal funding into the future. A big congratulations to USDA for recognizing the importance of this work and to all of the grant recipients across the country!

About the Authors

Andrea Spacht Collins

Sustainable Food Systems Specialist, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

Madeline Keating

City Strategist, Healthy People and Thriving Communities Program
Blog Post

A year after the launch of the Food Matters Regional Initiative, we are pleased to report considerable progress and accomplishments from the 15 regional initiative participants.

Blog Post

Two bills introduced in the House recognize the importance of reducing food waste to tackle the climate crisis, and lay the groundwork for quality job creation, significant GHG reductions, and improved soil health.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.