USDA and EPA set first-ever national food waste reduction goals

Dive Brief:

  • Today, representatives from the USDA and EPA announced the first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50% reduction by 2030. 
  • In order to reach this goal, the federal government will partner with private and public organizations, the private sector, and other local governments to reduce food waste. The aim of the goal is to improve food security, conserve natural resources, and maintain sustainable practices. If reached, the goal will also reduce the amount of food going into landiflls.
  • "Let's feed people, not landfills. By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations" said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a press release. "Today's announcement presents a major environmental, social and public health opportunity for the U.S., and we're proud to be part of a national effort to reduce the food that goes into landfills."


Dive Insight:

The USDA and EPA have been preparing for the success of this goal since 2013 when the U.S. Food Waste Challenge was launched. The Challenge created a platform for organizations to share practices on reducing and recycling food waste. After its launch the program rapidly grew, gaining over 4,000 participants by the end of 2014.

"The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a news release. "An average family of four leaves more than two million calories, worth nearly $1500, uneaten each year. Our new reduction goal demonstrates America's leadership on a global level in getting wholesome food to people who need it, protecting our natural resources, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste."

Food waste has been a growing issue in the United States, as approximately 31%  or 133 billion pounds  of overall food supply is wasted. According to USDA, this waste could feed more than 25 million Americans each year. The waste is also affecting the environment, as it is the third largest contributor of methane emissions in the United States. Researchers at the Laboratory of Biological Modeling, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, have even found that food waste accounts for more than 25% of total freshwater consumption.

Organizations such as the Food Waste Reduction Alliance are working to bring the issue to light across the industry. Additionally, many cities and states have proposed solutions at a local level, ranging from food waste bans at the landfill to mandatory composting programs

"We applaud these new nationwide goals for reducing food waste in the U.S. Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste, and the food industry has already stepped forward," according to Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which helped create the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in 2011, in a news release. "Last year, GMA member companies recycled 93 percent of the food waste generated from manufacturing and donated 106 million pounds of food to food banks...[The Food Waste Reduction Alliance] works to identify sources of food waste, increase the amount of food sent to food banks and decrease food sent to landfills."

A push for ugly produce has kept the food industry's attention, not to mention an app developed that connects the industry to local nonprofits for food donations.

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Filed Under: Sustainability
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