In June 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, calling on businesses and organizations across the food chain to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste in their operations.
Food waste is roughly estimated at between 30-40 percent of the U.S. food supply. By reducing this waste, we can help ease pressure on our precious natural resources and reduce production of methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that is generated by food decomposing in landfills. We can also help put food on the table for families in need.
The USDA estimates that 2008, the amount of uneaten food in homes and restaurants was valued at roughly $390 per U.S. consumer – more than an average month’s worth of food expenditures and almost three times the average monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit. By reducing our food waste, each of us could put some of this money back in our pockets.
By reducing their food waste, manufacturers, restaurants and food stores can improve their bottom line. By donating excess food, they can also help put food on the table for families in need. Across the county, businesses are doing just that.
Feeding America, a leading domestic hunger-relief charity, estimates that food donations supplied 2.7 billion meals to its clientele in 2010. “Rock and Wrap It Up!”, an award-winning national hunger relief program, provides 100,000 meals every week from the leftovers from schools, hotels, sporting events, rock concerts, political gatherings, film shoots and television productions.
As part of its contribution to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, USDA is initiating a wide range of activities including activities to reduce waste in the school meals program, educate consumers about food waste and food storage, and develop new technologies to reduce food waste.
USDA will also work with industry to increase donations from imported produce that does not meet standards, streamline procedures for donating wholesome “misbranded” meat and poultry products, update U.S. food loss estimates at the retail level, and pilot-test a meat-composting program to reduce the amount of meat being sent to landfills from food safety inspection labs.
By working together, we can reduce food waste in the United States and put more food on the table for families in need.
Elise Golan is Director for Sustainable Development at the Office of the Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture