The New York City Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) Foundation for New York’s Strongest has announced the winners of its inaugural Microgrant Program, which helps small businesses either begin or expand their food waste reduction efforts. The awardees will receive $2,000 and technical assistance from leading experts in the field for projects ranging from implementing compost systems to creating zero waste event stations. The projects will be funded via proceeds from the foundation’s successful Food Waste Fair last year.
“Given the more than 650,000 tons of food scraps New York businesses produce annually, these kinds of efforts have never been more important,” said Elizabeth Balkan, executive director of the Foundation for New York's Strongest and director of policy at DSNY, in a statement. “The Microgrants provide city businesses extra support as they transition to more sustainable operations. Additionally, these partners will help us develop and demonstrate best management practices to the larger business community in the city and the nation.”
The awardees include:
1. Ox Verte: A plant-forward food company working to reinvent office lunch and breakfast, making seasonally fresh, locally sourced food an everyday occurrence and offering wholesome meals that can nourish bodies and nurture the communities it serves.
Ox Verte has encountered challenges in full product utilization due to fluctuations in client order volumes and desired lead times, the limited accuracy of forecasting tools and minimum purchase requirements. Ox Verte will be using its grant to purchase a commercial freezer to best use raw food at a later date. Increasing the cold storage capacity at Ox Verte will reduce the amount of food discarded or diverted for compost, reducing the business’ footprint and potentially allowing Ox Verte to glean additional insights into strategic procurement.
“As a company with a triple-bottom line, Ox Verte is committed to making a positive impact on various stakeholders, including the planet. Reducing food waste in our kitchen is one important way we can protect and preserve the planet,” said Jessie Gould, Ox Verte founder, in a statement.
2. RoHo Compost: A food waste diversion and education nonprofit providing services to businesses in the New York City area. These services include hauling organic waste to compost facilities and transporting surplus food to food pantries.
RoHo Compost will be using its grant to design and install zero waste stations throughout the event grounds of Smorgasburg’s Williamsburg and Prospect Park sites. The zero waste stations will include a sorting platform to remove contamination from the market’s organic waste stream, education stations for outreach to the public at the markets and coordination of volunteers to spearhead interactive educational programs at the markets.
“RoHo Compost’s mission is to divert food waste from landfills, through composting and food recovery programs. We collaborate with Brooklyn Flea’s Smorgasburg markets to divert their food and organic waste through composting,” said Marc de Konkoly Thege, founder of Roho Compost, in a statement. “With the foundation’s funds, we are implementing zero waste stations at the Smorgasburg markets to educate the public on our joint effort to divert food waste and increase diversion rates of what is composted, recycled and sent to the landfill.”
3. Trans Am Café: A local vegetarian/vegan community-based cafe on the border between Bushwick and Ridgewood.
Trans Am Cafe will be using its grant to install a three-bin compost system and a storage site for processing compost onsite. Once built and in operation, it will look into selling the compost it produces.
“Trans Am Cafe is a local cafe seeking to serve its community, and it’s a collaborative creative space for connecting the neighborhood and serving fresh food and drinks,” said Bradford Still, owner of Trans Am Café, in a statement. “We provide healthy vegetarian and vegan options, as well as locally roasted coffee. The cafe seeks to reduce waste as much as possible and is excited to be working with Hila Perry on creating an educational environment surrounding compost and gardening. By having a composting facility in our backyard, we can turn what was once waste into high value product for our gardens and our community.”
4. White Moustache is dedicated to making handmade yogurt. Using the leftover whey from its yogurt-making process, it has created a variety of probiotic tonics and ice pops in addition to its yogurt line. U.S. yogurt manufacturers dispose of more than 150 million gallons of whey every year, and White Moustache is finding tasty and impactful uses for it. Six flavors of its Probiotic Pops debuted at the foundation’s Food Waste Fair preview event last June.
White Moustache has found that serving and selling its Probiotic Pops is a twofold challenge: First, engaging consumers on the subject of yogurt whey, and second, finding an effective way to keep the pops frozen at large and outdoor events. White Moustache will be using its grant to purchase a customized, branded freezer cart that will serve as a mobile vending and marketing unit for its Probiotic Pops. The cart will enable the company to expand its market presence and educate the public about the impact their purchases have at reducing food waste.
“Up to now, there has been no demand for the millions of gallons of yogurt whey produced in this country, so most companies treat it as waste. White Moustache is striving to show the world that yogurt whey is a nutritious, delicious ingredient that tastes creamy and lightly tangy and is full of probiotics, just like our yogurt,” said Homa Dashtaki, founder of White Moustache, in a statement. We are proud and excited to introduce the world to yogurt whey through our Probiotic Pops. Thanks to our foundation grant, we will be buying a freezer cart so we can serve refreshing, fruity Probiotic Pops all around NYC this summer.”
The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is the foundation’s technical advisory partner for the Microgrant Program and served on the Microgrant Advisory Committee. The institute will offer technical brief assistance to the grant awardees, including creating a tracking mechanism for recording food waste, advising on how to efficiently sort waste onsite, assessing the environmental benefits of food waste prevention and sharing best practices. The institute will also hold regular check-in calls with the grantees and conduct site visits.
“The NYC Food Waste Fair was proof of the significant interest small food-related businesses have in reducing food waste in their operations, and the Microgrant Program picks up where it left off,” said DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a statement. “We are seeing tremendous, innovative solutions for food waste emerging in New York City and beyond, which can save businesses money and improve their operations. I am pleased to see the Foundation for New York’s Strongest Microgrant program helping small, local businesses implement food waste reduction strategies and witness the steps all New Yorkers are taking to reach zero landfill waste by 2030.”