Making the Most of Every Resource

One things we like to say around here at The Nashville Food Project is that we believe that we live in a world of abundance. A world where there is enough to go around - enough farmable land to grow nourishing food for our city, enough hard-working hands to do incredible work and enough food to feed everyone in our community. 

We know that 40% of all food produced in our country is thrown away, but we also know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Last year, we began working with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to ramp up our food recovery efforts. They shared with us a food waste pyramid that has helped guide us in determining how best to use all of our food resources as we work towards a system of zero waste. 

The first and most important step is to avoid generating food waste in general. With that in mind, we’ve gotten even more creative in how we use up every last bit of the food that we have. A great example of this is our partnership with our neighbors at Green Hills Grille. On their menu is a great salmon filet, but we all know that a side of salmon doesn’t come beautifully square shaped naturally. In order to get that pretty portion, the restaurant cuts off all of the trimmings, but instead of just throwing them away, they freeze them and bring us those trimmings each week. We cook them up and use them for meals like our delicious salmon patties. That ensures that all of that food goes to the NRDC’s second most recommended use of food - to feed people in need.

As we’ve increased our food recovery efforts, though, we’ve realized that we can’t always use all of our recovered food before it perishes, and some of it just doesn’t meet the needs of our meal guests. So we began building a network of partners who can take this excess food and use it in their own programs. 

One such partner is Renewal House, a nonprofit that provides long-term, comprehensive treatment programs serving women affected by addiction and their children. Each week, we share healthy food with the women participating in Renewal House’s family residential program, stocking refrigerators so that the mothers have good food to prepare for their children. We now have 11 of these partners with whom we share our excess food, ensuring that none of it goes to waste.

Still there are times when we get food that is no longer appropriate for human consumption so we went back to the pyramid to determine the best and highest use for it. The next NRDC recommendation is to use food waste for animal feed. We raise chickens in our Wedgewood Urban Garden so naturally, much of our excess food has become chicken feed, and we must say that it has resulted in some very happy, healthy chickens!

What we can’t share in our meals, with our food sharing partners or with our chickens is then composted. That food contributes to creating wonderful potting soil that feeds our gardens, which, of course, produce even more healthy food. It’s an incredible cycle that we’ve loved seeing come together. 

We are constantly exploring new ways to make the best and highest use of every bit of food that comes through our doors. Slowly but surely, we’re doing our best to reduce our own food waste and to help our city as it works to do the same. If you’re interested in learning how you can reduce your own family’s food waste, we urge you to visit to find great recipes and resources to get you started.