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From Waste to Welfare: How Milan’s Food Waste Hubs are nourishing the city

City of Milan food hub

Food waste in cities is a pressing issue. Edible food is repeatedly thrown away because we don’t produce, store, consume or distribute it efficiently.

This wastage adds pressure to our already challenged natural resources, while decomposing food in landfills produces significant amounts of methane – a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

However, the surpluses of food created within cities are often still edible, only being discarded due to an expiry date passing or too much having been ordered.

In 2021, The City of Milan won The Earthshot Prize for their innovative Food Hubs that collect excess food and distribute it to communities who need it. We caught up with Andrea Magarini, Director of Food Policy for the City of Milan, to find out how they have been progressing.

Hi Andrea, could you briefly explain the City of Milan’s Food Waste Hub programme, the problems it addresses and what your goals are?

Yes, the Food Waste Hubs are strategically placed centres where surplus food collected from supermarkets around the city is redistributed to the most vulnerable individuals and families living in that neighbourhood.

They have been set up with the joint work of the City of Milan, Cariplo Foundation, Polytechnic University of Milan and Assolombarda, to strengthen the efforts to fight food waste at a city level and to halve the amount of food the city wastes by 2030.

In addition to waste reduction, the goals of the hubs have diversified over the years. They are now acting as central spaces where people in need can receive support such as language courses, kitchen courses and children’s day care.


The hubs must take a lot of organising! How does it all work?

It does, as there are now five active Hubs in the City of Milan in neighbourhoods of Isola, Lambrate, Gallaratese and Centro.

The logistics are similar for each hub: the first step is to find the local supermarket interested in supplying the hub then we connect with local organisations involved in running the redistribution from that hub.

Each of these organisations is in charge of collecting the food from the supermarkets in the morning and then, during the afternoon, delivering them to the selected hubs. When the food arrives in the hub, an army of volunteers select the products and prepare the boxes ready for their recipients.

Have you been able to measure the impact you’ve had to date on reducing waste in Milan?

Yes! It has always been a key issue for the city to actively monitor all the actions of its food policy.

During 2022, in the four Local Food Waste Hubs operating in Milan, over 177 tonnes were collected from 41 retailers of 12 supermarket brands, ultimately reaching over 3,500 families. In addition to these, another 240 tonnes of food surplus have been collected in the Foody Zero waste hub, meaning that over 400 tonnes of food has been recovered during of 2022.

At this stage, we also carefully monitor the amount of food that is donated so as to ensure the hubs are running as efficiently as possible.

You recently hosted several other cities to showcase your model, how did it go?

The three-day tour provided 10 US and EU cities with the opportunity to visit two of our Hubs to deepen their knowledge of the methodologies and innovative practices taking place in Milan and share visions for sustainable cities.

Representatives from Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Oslo were able to experience the programme first-hand to build their own competencies in food waste reduction.

It was an amazing week! A special thanks to The Earthshot Prize, Bloomberg Philanthropies, C40 and NRDC for helping to organise it.

What’s next, are there more hubs planned or other exciting developments?

The Food Policy Department is working extremely closely with local organisations to co-create new, innovative solutions to improve the network of Food Waste Hubs.

This has led to the publication in March 2023 of a Call for Proposal, aimed at involving all local organisations (from public, private, social and academic fields) in the process of sharing needs and solutions. This mutual exchange of different competences and know-how aims to significantly shape future activities and initiatives, which will include improving existing hubs and launching new ones.

Let’s see what the future holds for waste hubs!


What tips or advice do you have for communities that want to help reduce food waste, what actions could they take?

Tackling food waste must be a priority for cities and particularly at urban level, but generally speaking communities looking to reduce their waste issues should follow these steps.

  1. Build common goals with all relevant stakeholders to establish good relationships
  2. Define the strategies to create the right tools to reduce food waste
  3. Put the issue of educating citizens on food waste prevention practices at the centre of the agenda of local governments
  4. Have a solid plan for monitoring progress


Finally, what makes you optimistic for the future?

All organisations involved in the Food Waste Hubs in Milan have found the experience incredibly positive. But what is even more encouraging is that it has also generated a lot of interest among new organizations within the city and beyond.

We should all continue to work very hard to achieve our goal of decreasing the amount of food waste at city level and promote new opportunities to make Milan more sustainable and inclusive.

Additionally, the Hubs have opened new, unexpected opportunities for social inclusion and education, so we hope to continue this path of evolving the Food Policy strategy as a whole.

If you want to know more about Milan’s Food Waste Hubs or Milan’s Food Policy check out their website at and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact website

We Choose to Build a Waste-Free World

Learn more about The City of Milan and the amazing work of all our Waste-Free World Finalists.

The Earthshot Prize