REFED and Harvard Law School have released a report identifying opportunities for the 80 million tons of excess food that is wasted each year.
The document details specific measures that can be integrated into the 2023 Farm Bill.
"Waste prevention efforts aim for intervention at the root causes of food waste— they locate and address inefficiencies in the food system and food related practices before excess food is produced, transported to places where it cannot be utilized, or discarded rather than eaten. Waste prevention efforts keep millions of tons of food out of the landfill, and altogether, the waste prevention policies discussed have the potential for the most considerable environmental benefit," the organizations state in the introduction.
The federal government already has begun to initiate efforts to reduce food waste and, in turn, assist the 10.5 percent of American households that experience food insecurity each year. It set its first stop food waste reduction goal to halve surplus food by 2030.
In addition, agencies such as the USDA, the EPA, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding and launched Federal Interagency Food Loss and Waste Collaboration (formerly the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Federal Interagency Collaboration) to prioritize these efforts.
The 2018 Farm Bill announced multiple projects related to the issue, including:
- a Pilot Project to Support State and Local Composting and Food Waste Reduction Plans;
- Grant Resources for Food Recovery Infrastructure Investments;
- Food Loss and Food Waste Liaison and Study on Food Waste;
- Food Donation Standards for Liability Protections;
- a Milk Donation Program;
- a Local Agriculture Marketing Program;
- Spoilage Prevention; and
- a Carbon Utilization and Biogas Education Program
"Reducing food waste has unique bipartisan appeal because it can simultaneously increase profits and efficiencies across the food system, increase access to wholesome food, and protect the planet from the harmful environmental consequences associated with wasted food," the report stated.
REFED analysis discovered that putting into action 40 unique food waste solutions can create "generate $73 billion in annual net financial benefit, recover the equivalent of 4 billion meals for foodinsecure individuals every year, and create 51,000 jobs over ten years"
The 2023 Farm Bill could present change in the supply chain targeting the farmers, manufacturers, households and corporations in industries that shell out $408 billion per year just to dispose of food.
Speaking of the ramifications of adding provisions to the Farm Bill, the report stated: "Passed every five years, the farm bill is the largest piece of food and agriculture-related legislation in the United States and provides a predictable and visible opportunity to address food waste on a national scale. With food waste becoming a major focus in both states and the federal government, this legislation offers an opportunity to address multiple sectors of the food and agricultural system and effect system-wide change to reduce food waste."
REFED and the Harvard Law School outlined food waste prevention efforts in the report, beginning with food waste prevention which described the standardization and clarification of date labels and nationwide food waste awareness campaign.
In the area of surplus food waste and recovery, the report examined how the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act can be utilized to not only protect food donors from liability but also give more authority to the USDA to publish standards related to the act.
Additions or revisions to active legislation is present throughout the document. Funding support for food recovery efforts are explored through incentivizing pending measures such as the Nutritious Donations of Food (or FIND) Act of 2022 (H.R. 7313, 117th Cong. 2nd Sess., 2022); Food Donation Improvement Act of 2021 (H.R. 6521, S.3281, 117th Cong. 1st Sess., 2021); and the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act of 2021 (H.R. 5309, 117th Cong. 1st Sess., 2021).
Food waste recycling efforts are also analyzed. As 24.1 percent of landfilled MSW containing wasted food, the report stated that the "remaining food waste has the annual potential to divert 20.9 million tons of food scraps from landfills and produce a net financial benefit of $239.7 million."
Grants and loans for organic food waste recycling are two crucial components. Likewise, waste bans, waste diversion requirements, zero waste goals, and waste prevention plans could bolster federal, state and local governments in diversion projects. Finally, coordination and collaboration must happen at all levels for circular systems to come to fruition.
"Waste prevention efforts aim for intervention at the root causes of food waste— they locate and address inefficiencies in the food system and food related practices before excess food is produced, transported to places where it cannot be utilized, or discarded rather than eaten," the organizations stated.
Learn more about food waste recovery at Waste Expo May 9-12 in Las Vegas. Attend the Waste360 Food Recovery Forum where you can learn ways to solve the social and environmental issues of wasted food as well as means to profit from the recovery and reuse of food waste.