The U.S. government has been entrenched in work to tackle food loss and waste—from supporting businesses with aggressive food waste prevention goals—to investing multimillions to advance technologies addressing challenges across the food supply chain.

In a joint agency WasteExpo session, “Federal Food Loss and Waste Reduction Initiatives,” representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will shed light on a national strategy in the works that aims to reduce food loss and waste and promote organics recycling.

Arlene Karidis, Freelance writer

March 25, 2024

5 Min Read
Chris King / Alamy Stock Photo

The U.S. government has been entrenched in work to tackle food loss and waste—from supporting businesses with aggressive food waste prevention goals—to investing multimillions to advance technologies addressing challenges across the food supply chain.

The U.S. government has been entrenched in work to tackle food loss and waste—from supporting businesses with aggressive food waste prevention goals—to investing multimillions to advance technologies addressing challenges across the food supply chain.

In a joint agency WasteExpo session, “Federal Food Loss and Waste Reduction Initiatives,” representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will shed light on a national strategy in the works that aims to reduce food loss and waste and promote organics recycling. They will touch on tools, resources, and funding available to address food loss and waste reduction and to improve food security, as well as more opportunities around the bend.

The WasteExpo session takes place Monday, May 6, 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. PST at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Jean Buzby, USDA food loss and waste liaison will moderate, joined by presenters Lana Suarez, associate chief, Materials Management branch, U.S. EPA; Nika Larian, senior nutrition advisor for Food Safety, USAID; and Priya Kadam, senior advisor, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA.

“As the USDA, we are uniquely positioned to address food loss and waste prevention and reduction along the entire food supply chain, from farm to fork,” Buzby says.

It starts with salvaging good, nutritious food.

“Edible food is a highly valuable resource. Therefore, recovering surplus edible food that would otherwise be wasted can help ensure access to safe, healthy, and wholesome food so that it can be used for its intended purpose: to feed people,” she says.

USDA is currently investing in research and innovation such as around harvesting and packaging technologies that reduce damage to fresh food; one example is an automated sorting system that improves harvesting rates and reduces loss.

USDA’s NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative has funded similar advances, such as cellulose nanocrystals, which prevent frost damage in tree fruits, resulting in less on-farm food loss.

When food can’t be salvaged for human consumption, efforts turn to seeing that it goes to the most fitting place. One of the agency’s investments is in the Composting and Food Waste Reduction program, which supports local governments in developing and testing strategies to divert organics from landfills and increase compost production.

“By composting, we protect the environment by reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions while recycling organic materials to create a valuable, nutrient-enriched soil amendment,” Buzby says.

To date, 119 entities have been selected to receive $23.3M in funding for projects such as food scrap collection, expansion of municipal composting facilities, and education campaigns geared towards residents and restaurants.

In 2018, EPA, USDA, and FDA signed a formal agreement to affirm their shared commitment to reduce food loss and waste. Their partnership is ongoing. Agency representatives meet regularly to leverage government resources and to work on educating Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.

In December 2023, through their collaboration, the three agencies released the "Draft National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics.” The plan, developed to help meet the national goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030, outlines targeted actions intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save households and businesses money, and build cleaner communities.

EPA, USDA, and FDA are currently incorporating public comments and hope to finalize the strategy later in 2004.

EPA has been orchestrating multiple efforts on the food waste prevention front. Among its latest work, the agency created a graphic tool, the Wasted Food Scale,
to help decision makers understand options for managing food waste in terms of environmental impacts. This new tool replaces the previous Food Recovery Hierarchy.

“EPA published the Food Recovery Hierarchy in the 1990s, based on the best information available at the time. We created the new Wasted Food Scale using the latest science, taking into account changes in technology and processing practices,” Suarez says.

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA received historic amounts of funding to establish two grant programs: the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling program and the Recycling Education and Outreach program. Both cover multiple aspects of materials management, including food.

EPA has received $350M for both programs and last year announced the selection of $198M in projects –over $83M went to those that address organics recycling, mainly of food waste.

Recognizing the impact food loss and waste has on food security, farmers’ income, and climate, the USAID has heightened its focus on mitigating the problems, especially turning its attention to post- production to build resilience of the food system and capture the value of crops that might otherwise be thrown away.

“In a world where as many as 830 million go to bed hungry every night and 420,000 die from unsafe food every year, we can’t afford to lose food due to poor post-harvest management and contamination,” Larian says.

Among its work, USAID recently launched a $10M Food Loss Waste Accelerator fund, which allows for matching grants to small and medium enterprises in Africa.  The fund prioritizes investments in concepts that also advance women's empowerment and youth engagement and catalyzes broader stakeholder action within the food system.

The agency is also looking to partner with the private sector to grow sustainable cold chain solutions—capital-intensive projects for small- and medium-sized enterprises in lower- and medium-size countries— requiring co-investments.

“Expanding the climate-smart cold chain to first-mile smallholder producers is a key solution to reduce food loss and waste; improve access, affordability, and availability to safe, nutritious foods; spur inclusive economic growth; and mitigate powerful methane emissions,” Larian says.

Don’t miss this WasteExpo session for a deeper dive into innovative partnerships, new research in the food waste reduction space, and more.

WasteExpo is North America’s largest solid waste, recycling, organics, food waste recovery, and sustainability tradeshow serving both the private and public sectors.

About the Author(s)

Arlene Karidis

Freelance writer, Waste360

Arlene Karidis has 30 years’ cumulative experience reporting on health and environmental topics for B2B and consumer publications of a global, national and/or regional reach, including Waste360, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun and lifestyle and parenting magazines. In between her assignments, Arlene does yoga, Pilates, takes long walks, and works her body in other ways that won’t bang up her somewhat challenged knees; drinks wine;  hangs with her family and other good friends and on really slow weekends, entertains herself watching her cat get happy on catnip and play with new toys.

Stay in the Know - Subscribe to Our Newsletters
Join a network of more than 90,000 waste and recycling industry professionals. Get the latest news and insights straight to your inbox. Free.

You May Also Like