October 22, 2021

City to seek grant to cut food waste

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Heather Hartley of Cortland chops cucumbers Tuesday and sets the food waste aside in a container on the cutting board at the Deli Downtown in Cortland.

The city of Cortland will apply for a state grant to help reduce both food waste and food insecurity.

At Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, council members voted, 6-0, to apply for the state Department of Environmental Conservation grant — the Municipal Food Scraps Reduction and Donation Grant. Aldermen John Bennet (D-4th Ward) and Troy Beckwith (D-7th Ward) were absent.

“I think overall, the grant, as I understand it, is designed to really promote food recovery,” said Alderwoman Kat McCarthy (D-1st Ward). “It puts edible food in the hands of people who can use it before it goes to waste.”

McCarthy said the grant is an opportunity to look at the options Cortland has to lower food waste and to see if the city can implement solutions.

The grant, written by Seven Valleys Health Coalition, aims to:
• Reduce the amount of food waste entering the solid waste stream.
• Lower the rate of food insecurity by connecting people with excess wholesome, edible food with people who distribute food to food insecure people.
• Supports the Homer Avenue Plaza Revitalization Project’s food donation storage project.

An amount for the grant hasn’t been decided on yet, but available grants fall between $1,000 and $250,000, said Susan Williams, project manager for Seven Valleys Health Coalition.

A local match would be required, but Seven Valley would pay it, Williams said. The agency hasn’t yet decided on an amount. “It’s in an idea stage at this point,” she said.

Two reasons led Seven Valleys to look into the grant — addressing food donation in Cortland and addressing food programs, Williams said. “Maybe do some community education to cut down on food waste.”

In Cortland County, 5,800 people — nearly one in eight — are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the Department of Social Services in December. More than one in eight people in Cortland County are also food insecure, according to HealtheCNY in December.

Jeannie Catalfano, owner of the Deli Downtown on Main Street in Cortland was interested to hear about the program.

“It’s definitely something I would be interested in,” said Catalfano, who has owned the restaurant for 16 years. “I would love to be part of something like that.”

She said she was not sure how much food waste is generated at the restaurant.

“There are definitely scraps from our prep work,” she said. “There are always scraps from the customers — bread crusts or pickles.”