This is how Chicago restaurants are turning their scraps into delicious vegetables

A vegetable seller sprays water on vegetables to keep them fresh at a market in Gauhati, India, Monday, June 8, 2015. (AP Photo/ Anupam Nath)

It’s no secret that food waste is a serious issue in our country. But some organizations are doing their part to make sure this unused food doesn’t just end up in landfills.

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Since 1972, the Resource Center has provided environmental education to restaurants and the public. One of the major initiatives is a truck that collects compost bins to be used on their City Farm (550 W. Division St.), the former site of the Cabrini Green housing project.

The Chicago Tribune spoke to Ken Dunn, founder of the Resource Center, about the service.

“We’re rich in vacant lots, and we’re rich in food and yard waste,” Dunn told the Tribune. “If the food and yard waste were applied appropriately to vacant lots, with some job training, there could be full employment in our city with food being produced in the neighborhoods where it specifically is needed.”

This point is particularly poignant given the enormous amount of food desserts in the city. And there are economic benefits to urban farms as well.

“If we had rich compost on every vacant lot in the city, we would have 200,000 additional really significant jobs that pay between $20,000 and $30,000 or more per year growing food for consumption locally,” Dunn said.

As an experienced composter and expert in the field, this isn’t just talk. Dunn partners with many local restaurants, some of which provide food waste (like the Publican and City Winery) and some of which receive vegetables grown from that composting (like Frontera Grill, Monteverde, North Pond and more).

Dunn also notes the risks of growing in formerly industrial land with soil containing zinc or arsenic. But he says they have a system where lots are sealed with clay and artificial water tables to help isolate future crops from any possible toxins.

RELATED: 6 ways to save money at Whole Foods

Earlier this year, Starbucks announced an initiative in Chicago to start donating unused food to homeless shelters, another way the city is helping to combat food waste.

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