Memphis Food Waste Project Aims to Halve Food Waste by 2030

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Memphis Food Waste Project

Overview: As part of the Food Matters Regional Initiative and in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the city of Memphis has made a commitment to reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. 

Location: Memphis, TN

Population: 0.65 million

Food policy category: Food waste, sustainability, food insecurity

Program goals: To reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

How it works: The Memphis Food Waste Project is a product of Clean Memphis. There are four components to the program.

  1. Rethink: Prevent food waste. 
    It is important for city governments to lead by example. Mayor Jim Strickland signed a proclamation on December 19, 2020, stating a commitment to reducing food waste, and Clean Memphis is working with leaders throughout the city to develop policies that support food waste reduction.
  1. Reduce: Increase public awareness. 
    Clean Memphis is creating a home food waste auditing system to help increase people’s awareness of how much food they are wasting at home. A consumer education campaign is also being developed to encourage individuals to reduce portion sizes in order to reduce waste and to encourage universities to use up the food they have in stock rather than over-purchasing and wasting leftovers. 
  1. Rescue: Improve the local food recovery system. 
    Clean Memphis is working to connect partners who have excess food to share it with partners who can distribute the food to people and organizations that need it. 
  1. Recycle: Expand our composting network.
    The Memphis Food Waste Project aims to promote composting across the city, in businesses and residences. Recycling food scraps and composting helps to create rich soil that can be used to grow new crops while also reducing the production of methane gases from food waste in landfills. 

Progress to date: The Memphis Food Waste Project has been ongoing since early 2021. 

Why it is important: In the US, it is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the food supply is wasted. Food waste is concerning because of its effects on the environment as well as its relation to food insecurity and hunger. 

When food waste is dumped in landfills, it produces methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas stronger than carbon dioxide. The equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gases are generated from the production of food that will eventually be wasted. These greenhouse gases trap heat in the environment and are the main cause of climate change, which is affecting our food system by making it more difficult to grow crops, raise livestock, and catch fish

In addition, reducing waste by donating excess food to those who struggle to feed themselves and their families can also help to reduce food insecurity. Clean Memphis reports that the city has a food insecurity rate of 19 percent, compared to 11 percent nationally. 

Therefore, the Memphis Food Waste Project can help to protect the environment and our food systems, while also using excess food to feed the hungry. 

Program/Policy initiated: The program was initiated in early 2021. 

Point of contact: 
Janet Boscarino, Executive Director, Clean Memphis
Heidi Rupke, Food Waste Specialist, Clean Memphis
Phone: 901-235-2416

Similar practices: Several other cities have joined the Food Matters Regional Initiative. The Southeast regional cohort includes Asheville, Atlanta, Nashville, and Orlando, along with Memphis.

Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been completed. 

Learn more: 


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