In a press release on February 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new plans to promote composting initiatives and redirect food waste piling in landfills. The department will invest $9.4 million in its newest project.The USDA emphasized its vision of creating “resilient, local food systems” and the importance of reducing food waste in landfills.
“These Compost and Food Waste Reduction projects play important roles in building resilient, local food systems, including strong food recovery networks and food waste reduction solutions that benefit farmers and communities.”
Terry Cosby, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
“With an estimated 4 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions attributable to uneaten food, local strategies and tools like these are important climate solutions,” he added.
The plan will fund the Compost and Food Waste Reduction (CFWR) projects, giving municipal and local governments the chance to reduce food waste in their landfills. The plan also encourages composting and other sustainable waste management practices.
The recent string of agreements includes 27 recipients from municipals and districts across the United States. Some notable recipients come from communities in New York, Arizona, Alaska, and Florida.
In New York, the Town of Geneva plans to collaborate with partners to remove biodegradable products and food waste from their streams. These waste products will be converted to compost and planted in the soil, eliminating reliance on manufactured fertilizer and feeding the local community.
Tucson, Arizona’s Unified School District will see a project that gives more compost to schools and community gardens. This effort will also educate the local population on the advantages of food reclamation, allowing the community to contribute to the gardens.
Furthermore, the USDA will collaborate with one of the Native tribes of Alaska on their composting programs. This composting program will support the Tlingit and Haida Tribes’ goals of securing food and maintaining sustainable waste practices, and will be integrated into their Taay Hít Greenhouse, which already grows food for the tribal population.
Three local Florida composting services will also receive funding from the USDA for a two-year project. The three companies from Miami plan to extend their services by 50 percent in the next year, producing new compost products for the state’s parks and recreation areas.
Supports for composting and food waste reduction
The USDA has been supporting composting and food waste reduction efforts since 2020, helping fund community projects across the country. Most of their previous beneficiaries have been community gardeners and farmers.
In 2022, the USDA invested a whopping $43 million in support of urban agriculture, developing more community gardens, and constructing resilient food supply chains in preparation for the upcoming recession.
Their previous plans helped fund local government projects that made compost more accessible, provided better fertilizer alternatives, spurred innovation in waste management and reduced food waste in landfills. These plans also provided grant programs to various applicants across the country.
Over 40 projects and recipients were listed in the USDA’s project profiles in 2022. Notable recipients included Tennessee’s Knoxville Compost Project, a program that aimed to provide access and education in composting to various businesses, nonprofits, and residents in the city.
Another project centered in Louisville and Jefferson Country, Kentucky, aimed to create a high-quality compost that would be provided for free to local gardeners and farmers in the district. The project assisted marginalized residents from poorer communities and built a better system of food supply for them to access.
The USDA plans to continue to fund local communities’ sustainability efforts, with a focus on building more resilient local food production systems under the Biden-Harris administration.
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