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Seattle Invests $200,000 in Innovative Food Rescue Efforts to Reduce Waste and Fight Hunger

The City of Seattle is awarding $200,000 to tackle commercial food waste and improve food distribution to those in need. Three standout projects have been selected out of twelve solutions-driven organizations and businesses who responded to this inaugural food rescue grant. Each selected project reflects Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU’s) commitment to being community-centered and innovation-driven. These projects will test unique methods for collecting and redistributing unsold, uneaten food from grocery stores, hospitals, and farmers markets.

“The cost and accessibility of healthy food is a burden for many in our communities whose resources are strained by the rising cost of living. I am excited to see these partnerships across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors that will help us keep good food flowing to people. We all have a vital role to play in building a Seattle that is sustainable and ensures all residents and families have their food needs met,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell.

SPU General Manager and CEO, Andrew Lee added, “Seattle Public Utilities is proud we’ll be working with community partners on new approaches to food distribution and waste reduction. We’re excited to learn from these partnerships and build sustainable models for food redistribution. These solutions will benefit people struggling with food insecurity and reduce carbon emissions.”

Food is the largest component of Seattle’s garbage and a major greenhouse gas contributor. This grant provides seed funding to test innovative approaches that could be scaled or replicated with private sector, nonprofit, or philanthropic funding. The goal is to foster new approaches among food businesses, hunger relief organizations, and other nonprofits as we work together to better understand the unique challenges of redistributing unsold food.

Annually, the City of Seattle invests $34 million across investments that increase food security and access to affordable, nutritious and culturally relevant food, a key priority in the city’s forthcoming Food Action Plan which will serve as a framework for an equitable and sustainable food system for Seattle communities.

Meet the Awardees

Edible Food Recovery at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health for $57,903
Virginia Mason Franciscan Health will engage GoodR Co, to pick up and transport excess food from Virginia Mason Medical Center to local feeding programs, focusing on communities with the highest rates of food insecurity. The success of a pilot in Seattle will provide the experience and data to scale this program across additional hospitals in Washington and nationwide.

More Than Food Project for $100,000
Vault89 Strategies will address missed food donation pickups from Safeway grocery stores, by providing transportation through a third-party service (Feeding Feasible Feasts). This project seeks to ensure consistent pickups from ten Safeway stores while minimizing food going to the compost or garbage by aligning with five community partners equipped to accept these donations.

Pedaling Relief Project: Accelerating Food Rescue Efforts in Seattle for $42,097
Cascade Bicycle Club will accelerate food rescue efforts by sending teams of bicyclists to rescue food donations from farmers markets, grocery stores, and other locations. This project is specifically targeting donor locations that are logistically challenging for hunger relief organizations’ vehicles to navigate in Seattle traffic and secure limited parking. It builds on a prior pilot to accelerate food rescue efforts by offering more frequent, efficient, and eco-friendly collection of food donations while decreasing food waste and reducing food bank transportation expenses.

Grant Application Selection Process 

This competitive process assessed each applicant’s ability to effectively “move the dial” in reducing food waste and increasing access to good food for people experiencing food insecurity in Seattle. An independent panel of four professionals, both internal and external to City government, bringing diverse expertise in food programs, community health, waste management, and climate mitigation, evaluated each of the 12 proposals and unanimously agreed on the top three proposals to fund with the $200,000 allocated for this grant. The nine remaining applications requested a total of $849,980.

Future Plans

SPU continues to advance a zero-waste vision thanks to strong public support. Effective food rescue operations require extensive collaboration due to the perishable nature of most of this unsold but healthy food. By bringing together businesses and community partners, SPU aims to ensure that unsold food stays at its highest value – to feed people.

Looking ahead, SPU envisions a more resilient and adaptable food rescue system with diverse funding sources and a greater impact on meeting our community’s nutritional needs. This initiative marks a significant step toward achieving that vision.

Stay tuned for updates on these innovative projects!