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Rockefeller Foundation Joins Mayor Adams and Cross-Sector Partnership To Reduce Food-Related Carbon Emissions

Leading New York City-Based Institutions Commit to Administration’s Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge to Reduce Food-Related Carbon Emissions by 25 Percent by 2030

NEW YORK | April 18, 2024 ― Mayor Eric Adams today announced a partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and other leading New York City-based institutions to reduce food-related carbon emissions. The city’s integrated greenhouse gas inventory found that 20 percent of New York City’s overall emissions comes from the production and consumption of food. As the city has committed to reduce its emissions by a third by 2030, the Adams administration’s Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge is a leadership initiative for New York City’s private sector to join this mission by reducing food-related carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2030. To reach this ambitious climate target, Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge partners are committing to procuring and serving more plant-based foods, which have a significantly lower carbon footprint than animal-sourced foods. The commitments made by Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge partners have the potential to reduce emissions by nearly 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year — the equivalent of removing approximately 100 million car miles from New York City streets or planting 45 thousand acres of forest. The Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP), in partnership with nonprofit Greener by Default will assist partners in tracking emissions and sharing best practices on shifting towards plant-forward menus. New York City is the only city with a cross-sector initiative of this size focused on greenhouse gas reduction.

“In order to tackle the climate crisis, we need to take control of our plates,” said Mayor Adams. “We’re committed to doing our part as a city, but we can’t do it alone. Our Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge partners are stepping up to cut down on their food-related emissions, create a more sustainable food system, deliver nutritional equity and food justice for all, and make New York City healthier and greener. New York City is leading the way in reimagining our food system, and we’re grateful to our partners for taking a leading role in building a more sustainable future.”

“The Rockefeller Foundation is pleased to sign on to the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge, which aligns with our strategic objectives to advance human opportunity and slow the climate crisis. As we develop our plan to target Net Zero we will reduce our food-based carbon emissions by 25% by 2030. We are glad to work with our neighbors in New York City on this important initiative,” said Natalye Paquin, Chief Operating Officer, The Rockefeller Foundation.

“The Adams administration has put forth bold commitments to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from the food we serve,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Ana J. Almanzar. “By serving more plant-based foods in our agencies, we have made remarkable progress in reducing our carbon footprint. I’m proud to recognize our first year’s signatories to the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge. Having the private sector working alongside the city in serving plant-powered meals that are good for New Yorkers, as well as good for our environment, is a strategic win for everyone.”

“With the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge and New York City’s new, consumption-based emissions inventory, which shows the impact of food consumption on greenhouse gas emissions, the Adams administration is leading the globe in effective climate partnerships,” said New York City Chief Climate Officer and New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “Our city’s private sector has long been a catalyst of climate action, and we look forward to our successful collaboration with the Plant-Powered participants.”

“Our consumption-based greenhouse gas inventory, which incorporates emissions from producing and consuming food, shows food is the third highest source of emissions after buildings and transportation,” said Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice Executive Director Elijah Hutchinson. “This public-private partnership helps incentivize participants to reduce meat and dairy and works in tandem with our PlaNYC goal to reduce emissions from city agency food purchases 33 percent by 2030.”

“Last Earth Day, when we launched the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge, we could not imagine all the creative ways that institutions would work plant-powered foods into their menus and programming,” said Mayor’s Office of Food Policy Executive Director Kate MacKenzie. “It is so inspiring to see this inaugural team of signatories. We applaud them for taking the leap and helping us reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering more plant-powered foods.”

The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge harnesses the power of the private sector to reduce the city’s overall emissions and set the bar for plant-powered climate action. In December, Columbia University became the first official signatory of the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge. Students participating in a capstone project in the undergraduate Sustainable Development Program found that ruminant meat products, while just 13 percent by weight of a dining hall’s procurement, accounted for 72 percent of its carbon footprint. Since signing on to the challenge, Columbia Dining has already begun to incorporate changes to its operations, like offering plant-based menus at the main action station two to three times a week, rather than restricting them to the vegan station. Recent menu highlights include mushroom bolognese pasta, shitake mushroom and roasted sweet potato quesadillas, and red bean curry served over rice. For the first time in the school’s history, Columbia showcased an entirely plant-based menu at the “Battle of the Dining Halls,” a spring competition between the five student dining halls to produce the tastiest signature dish judged by students and celebrity chefs.

The following New York City institutions have signed on to the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge:

  • Aramark
  • Columbia University
  • Fordham University
  • Great Performances
  • Harvest
  • Morrison Healthcare
  • The Good Eating Company
  • The New York Botanical Garden
  • The Rockefeller Foundation
  • The Rockefeller University
  • Thomas Preti Events to Savor
  • Wildlife Conservation Society/ Bronx Zoo

Under Mayor Adams’ leadership, the city has made significant investments and enacted policies to become a global leader in combatting climate change. The city has made tremendous progress in reducing its carbon footprint through serving more plant-based foods. Between Fiscal Year 2019 and Fiscal Year 2022, the total greenhouse gas emissions from food served in city agencies decreased by 26.7 percent, ahead of schedule to reduce emissions by 33 percent by 2030. Mayor Adams joined New York City Health + Hospitals to announce culturally diverse, sustainable and plant-based meals at multiple hospitals. A new culinary training for culinary professionals at the Department of Correction and the Administration of Children’s Services (made possible through a grant with Carbon Neutral Cities’ Alliance) all contribute to the city’s efforts to reduce food-related emissions.

“Aramark is committed to reducing emissions across our business through the foods we serve, the suppliers we engage, the vehicles we drive, and the kitchens and facilities we operate,” said Alan Horowitz, vice president of sustainability, Aramark. “We’re proud to join Mayor Adams and the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge as an extension of our existing Coolfood Pledge and a continuation of our journey to reduce our food emissions through expanded plant-forward consumer choice, procurement, and culinary innovation.”

“Columbia University is proud to be the first institution to sign on to New York City’s Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge,” said Cas Holloway, chief operating officer, Columbia University. “We know that scope 3 emissions, including food procurement, have a critical role to play in achieving our Plan 2030 goals. The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge provides a framework to accelerate the work already underway to create more sustainable dining options on campus. We are excited to join the mayor’s office and our fellow partners in setting a new standard for climate-smart food service in New York City.”

“The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge is a great example of how cities can promote a more sustainable food future,” said Edwina Hughes, head of Coolfood, World Resources Institute (WRI). “We at WRI are excited to continue working with the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy though Coolfood to collaborate on tools and expertise to guide organizations in the city.”

“The mayor’s initiative to reduce food-related carbon emissions aligns with our sustainability ethos,” said Shaun Roberts, chief revenue officer, Great Performances. “We’ve been strong advocates for a more plant-based diet and were the first caterers to own an organic farm. From reducing waste, sourcing responsibly, and encouraging seasonal plant-forward menus, we’re excited to meet the challenge set forth by the mayor.”

“Once again, New York City is leading by example, showing the powerful role that cities can play in motivating institutions to achieve ambitious greenhouse gas reduction,” said Katie Cantrell, chief executive officer, Greener by Default. “Greener by Default is honored to be a partner of the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge, supporting signatories in creating plant-forward menus that are delicious and appealing to all diners.”

“The Restaurant Group is already in the process of changing ‘Harvest Kitchen,’ to ‘Harvest,’ to promote a more sustainable environment with healthier food choices,” said Jeremy Wladis, president, Harvest. “Our new menu will be more than 30 percent plant based, with a focus on local farms and seasonal produce. Another of our restaurants, Good Enough to Eat, has a five-decade history as one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in New York City. It was also the restaurant where Mayor Adams announced his candidacy for mayor. We are excited to join Mayor Adams in his Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge to create a healthier and more climate-friendly future for New York City.”

“As healthcare leaders, we focus on programs and solutions that support patients and caregivers, and drive sustainable practices throughout our business,” said Tim Pierce, chief executive officer, Morrison Healthcare. “Joining this challenge is about more than stating our commitment to reducing food-based carbon emissions, it also underscores the impact of plant-forward procurement and sustainable purchasing and sourcing as part of the solution. At Morrison, we are driving our own carbon reduction commitments and are proud to join forces with Mayor Adams on this journey to improve the well-being of our patients, communities, and planet. We’re grateful to our partners at Mount Sinai Heath System for joining us in this challenge, as we all play a role in continuing to build healthier communities and a greener future for New Yorkers.”

“New York City restaurants have long been stewards of our taste buds and our planet, by sourcing locally, thinking globally, and cooking deliciously,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director, NYC Hospitality Alliance. “So, it’s great to see institutions introduce more plant-based menu options, while working with the city of New York to lessen their emissions.”

“The Good Eating Company is thrilled to partner with Mayor Adams’ Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge to reduce the city’s overall emissions,” said Mike Gillespie, president, The Good Eating Company. “Reducing carbon and waste, promoting sustainable diets, and improving social impact are core pillars of our brand and this partnership aligns with the commitments we bring to our clients every day.”

“At the New York Botanical Garden, we’re plant people and believe in our ability to make things better,” said Jennifer Bernstein, CEO and the William C. Steere Sr. president, The New York Botanical Garden. “We look forward to teaching tens of thousands of kids and families each year about the importance of safeguarding our environment and healthy eating. Participating in the mayor’s Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge is an honor and we applaud his leadership in raising awareness about the power of plants.”

“The Rockefeller University has a long history of addressing some of the world’s leading challenges through science, and joining the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge is a natural extension of our commitment to bettering humanity,” said Amy Wilkerson, associate vice president of research support, The Rockefeller University. “Plant-based foods have a significantly smaller footprint on the environment, and increasing access to them on our campus is an important part our overall sustainability program. We are proud to partner with the mayor’s office to promote a more sustainable future for our city and planet, as well as provide healthier options for our own community.”

“Moving the needle on climate change is going to take courageous actions from businesses and organizations committed to show that a more sustainable path is possible,” said Tommy Preti Jr., vice president of sales and operations, Thomas Preti Events to Savor. “The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge creates a platform for New York’s food industry where this vision can play out.”

“At the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo café, we are focused on offering menu choices that benefit our local community and our planet,” said John Calvelli, executive vice president of public affairs, Wildlife Conservation Society. “We offer sustainable choices, buy local when we can, and educate our visitors about sustainable food systems and the carbon footprint of various menu items. We are proud to be a Certified Green Restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association and to join Mayor Adams and his administration to incorporate more plant-based items into our offerings and cut our food-based carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2030.”

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation that enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We make big bets to promote the well-being of humanity. Today, we are focused on advancing human opportunity and reversing the climate crisis by transforming systems in food, health, energy, and finance. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on X @RockefellerFdn and LI @the-rockefeller-foundation.

Ashley Chang

The Rockefeller Foundation