That’s why the Foundation for New York’s Strongest, the official nonprofit partner of the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), hosted the second NYC Food Waste Fair at the Brooklyn Navy Yard last week.
Hundreds of business owners and thought leaders attended the biannual event, which debuted in 2017 as a way to share resources and solutions to help New Yorkers reduce their food waste.
This year, more than 75 exhibitors from food waste prevention and processing companies, compliance professionals, and waste management and carting businesses participated in the expo.
Throughout the day, the fair hosted panels and discussions led by leaders in the field, who shared their experiences tackling food waste.
Julie Raskin, executive director of the Foundation for New York’s Strongest, said a combination of stakeholders were represented at the event, including large commercial food business owners, who are required by law to separate their organics and comply with a mandate to reduce food waste.
Others attended because they’re curious about the cost savings of reducing food waste.
“This is really a one-stop shop,” she said.
Raskin said she wants attendees to take away just how big of an issue food waste is. It comprises about one-third of everything New Yorkers throw out.
Between businesses and residents, more than 1 million tons of food are going into landfills annually.
“It not only takes up space, but as it decomposes it produces greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change,” Raskin said. “It’s a serious environmental issue and it’s something we take very seriously.”
The nonprofit leader added that she wants attendees to know that reducing food waste “isn’t that hard.” She noted that while there is an awareness gap, DSNY is making a “concerted effort” to get the word out about curbside composting and drop-off sites.
For businesses, the department just launched a new program called DonateNYC. Whatever businesses in the food industry have left over at the end of the day, they can log onto DonateNYC’s site and find a local soup kitchen or shelter in the area and arrange a donation.
“Everyone can walk away feeling empowered to either change their habits or implement new technology,” Raskin said, “or do something in their home or business to really tackle the problem.”
While the daytime fair mostly targeted the commercial sector, at night the foundation hosted a “Zero Food Waste Challenge.”
Eight celebrity chefs from local restaurants competed to make the “most delicious zero-waste dish,” Raskin said. They were tasked to be creative with how they cook to make sure they don’t throw anything away.
Attendees sampled each of the eight dishes, as well as a cocktail made with upcycled pineapple cores.
Raskin said the idea for the food waste fair came out of multiple factors, including the city taking a leadership role in the nationwide organics movement.
As for the foundation, Raskin said their role is to bridge the public and private sectors to tackle the issue.
“We really see the value in building partnerships and working very closely with the commercial sector,” she said, “both to convene fairs like this to present opportunities and understand what the business owners need.”