A Call To Action On U.S. Food Loss And Waste Policy

April 6, 2021

Businesses, government agencies, funders, and many others are already making strides to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste each year. But with 35% of food going unsold or uneaten in 2019 – and data showing that COVID-19 has potentially led to an increase in food waste, at least in the short term – a massive acceleration in effort is needed to reach the nation's goal to cut food waste in half by 2030.

Recognizing the important role that policy plays as a key lever to facilitate the implementation and scaling of food waste reduction solutions, ReFED, The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – with support from companies, NGOs, and other stakeholders – have developed the U.S. Food Loss and Waste Policy Action Plan, featuring recommendations for the Biden administration and Congress to help support food loss and waste reduction efforts.

“Government is the critical linchpin in the fight against food waste,” said ReFED’s Executive Director Dana Gunders. “Policy can create an environment that accelerates the adoption of food waste reduction solutions at a large scale. By incentivizing food practices, penalizing bad behavior, or clarifying what activities are allowed, policy has the power to spark the food system into action.”

The plan includes the following five key actions:

  1. Invest in Prevention and Keep Waste out of Landfills
    Food is the single largest input by weight into US landfills and incinerators, where it causes social and environmental harm. Investing in infrastructure and programs that measure and prevent waste, incentivize rescue of surplus and safe excess food, and keep it out of landfills will help achieve climate gains, improve our country's soils, boost profits for farmers, and feed more people.
     
  2. Enable Surplus Food Donation
    Less than 10% of excess food is donated rather than wasted. Through policy revisions, creating alternative markets, and strengthening regional supply chains, we can make it easier for farmers, retailers, and all foodservice organizations to donate excess food to help feed those in need in our communities.
     
  3. Show US Leadership at Home and Abroad
    The US has one of the world’s highest levels of food waste per person. It is vital for the nation’s food security, climate, economic, and recovery objectives that we set a leading example on how to drive solutions.
     
  4. Educate and Activate Consumers
    37% of food waste happens at the US household level. We must educate and empower Americans to change their behaviors everywhere that they eat, in coordination with efforts in consumer-facing businesses to drive better food management.
     
  5. Standardize National Date Labeling
    Date label confusion is one of the leading causes of consumer and consumer-facing business food waste. We need consistent labels, standardized at the federal level, and streamlined public education on how to use and interpret.

Read the full action plan – and learn which companies and organizations have signed on as supporters – here.

ReFED is a national nonprofit working to end food loss and waste across the food system by advancing data-driven solutions to the problem. ReFED leverages data and insights to highlight supply chain inefficiencies and economic opportunities; mobilizes and connects people to take targeted action; and catalyzes capital to spur innovation and scale high-impact initiatives. ReFED’s goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow.

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