United States sets goal of cutting food waste by half within next 15 years

by Search Gate staff. Published Thu 17 Sep 2015 10:02, Last updated: 2015-09-17
United States launches programme to reduce food waste
United States launches programme to reduce food waste

The Obama administration has announced America’s first-ever goals for cutting food waste nationwide—setting a reduction target of 50 percent by 2030.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg made the announcement a week before the United Nations reveals global goals to reduce the amount of wasted food.

As part of the US effort, the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve the nation's natural resources.

The programme was unveiled a week before world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption. As the global population continues to grow, so does the need for food waste reduction.

"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. "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 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 loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31 percent — or 133 billion pounds — of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change.

Food loss and waste is single largest component of disposed US municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of US methane emissions. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the United States. Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions.

"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. "This announcement presents a major environmental, social and public health opportunity for the US, and we're proud to be part of a national effort to reduce the food that goes into landfills."

Ongoing federal initiatives are already building momentum for long-term success. In 2013, USDA and EPA launched the US Food Waste Challenge, creating a platform for leaders and organizations across the food chain to share best practices on ways to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste. By the end of 2014, the scheme had over 4,000 active participants, well surpassing its initial goal of reaching 1,000 participants by 2020.

In addition to the US Food Waste Challenge, USDA has unveiled several food loss reduction initiatives over the past few years, including an app to help consumers safely store food and understand food date labels, new guidance to manufacturers on donating misbranded or sub-spec foods, and research on innovative technologies to make reducing food loss and waste cost effective. USDA says it will build on these successes with additional initiatives targeting food loss and waste reduction throughout its programmes and policies.

In addition, USDA is launching a new consumer education campaign through its Centre for Nutrition Policy and Promotion with information on food loss and waste facts and reduction tips to educate consumers about reducing food waste to help stretch household budgets.

USDA and EPA will also continue to encourage the private sector, including food service companies, institutions, restaurants and grocery stores, to set their own aggressive goals for reducing food loss and waste in the months ahead. Organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, which recently approved a new resolution to halve food waste within the operations of its 400 retailer and manufacturers members by 2025, are helping to lead the way.

Dana Gunders, Staff Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, commented: “Today is a historic day for anyone who eats. Wasted food is wasted money, wasted water, wasted land and wasted energy. America is taking solid action to keep more food on our plates.

“But the government can’t do this alone. We need all hands on deck—from restaurants to grocery stores to household shoppers—to make a serious dent in this problem and ensure a steady food supply for more American families into the future.”

Americans throw away 40 percent of food in the US, the equivalent of $162 billion in wasted food each year. That’s a problem that’s costing the average American family roughly $1,500 every year in uneaten food. Yet, at the same time, one in six Americans is food insecure.

When good food goes to waste, so do all of the resources used to grow, store and transport it:

* 25 percent of the nation’s fresh water goes into producing food that is never eaten.

* If global food waste was a country, it would have the world’s largest greenhouse gas footprint after the US and China—food waste just in the US is responsible for emissions equal to those from 33 million cars.

* Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in US landfills

* 28 percent of the world’s agricultural land—an area larger than Canada—is used to grow food that gets wasted

* US consumers are collectively responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores or any other part of the food-supply chain.

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