By Chesterfield Polkey
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) partnered to recognize April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month to tackle the growing problem of wasted food across the country.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service indicates that a third of food in the United States is lost or wasted. Food waste significantly trumps all other kinds of waste, including glass and plastic garbage, in terms of both quantity and resources lost, such as fresh water, fertilizer, landfill and labor.
At the same time, 1 in 7 families experiences food insecurity. Both the public and private sector have recognized this significant disparity between the high level of waste and the high level of hunger in America.
To address the current state of waste, the USDA, EPA and FDA formed the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, a strategic plan to leverage government resources more efficiently and bolster private sector work to reduce food waste. The initiative aims to focus on six priorities including:
- Enhance interagency coordination.
- Increase consumer education and outreach efforts.
- Improve coordination and guidance on food loss and waste measurement.
- Clarify and communicate information on food safety, food date labels and food donations.
- Collaborate with private industry to reduce food loss and waste across the supply chain.
- Encourage food waste reduction by federal agencies in their respective facilities.
In addition to these priorities, all three agencies signed a formal agreement with the public-private partnership ReFED to identify critical innovations, initiatives, policy, and awareness-building to reach the long-term goal of a 50% reduction in national food waste. Formed in early 2015, ReFED is a collaboration of more than 50 business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing food waste across the country. Analysis by ReFED shows that up to half of annual food waste can be reduced by 2030.
States have also been working toward reducing food waste in their communities through grant programs, research studies and public-private partnerships. Pending legislation in California, Colorado and Massachusetts would establish programs to fund composting programs and organic collection programs in the private sector.
Local food councils, research studies and task forces have been proposed in New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington, while Maine and Rhode Island have introduced legislation on reducing food waste in schools.
In addition to federal and state action, schools, restaurants and grocery stores are working to decrease the waste they produce through composting and donating food.
For more resources on this topic, take a look at NCSL’s resources on food waste.
Chesterfield Polkey is the Emerson Hunger Fellow at NCSL.