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Diverse Food Waste Solutions

This edition of Green Gazette covers ways to limit food waste at all stages of the supply chain; rural population trends; and more.

| August/September 2019

Photo by Getty Images/Wachira Wacharapathom

From growers to grocers, companies to consumers, food waste is an issue that plagues the entire supply chain. Up to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply finds its way to landfills — at great financial and environmental cost — while simultaneously, 40 million Americans are food-insecure. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we need multifaceted solutions to connect and correct those issues, with policymakers, businesses, and consumers all working to stem the flow of food waste from every angle.

Some groups are addressing the root of the issue by minimizing surplus, and others are coming up with ways to make use of the waste. By establishing various programs, policies, and processes, the following organizations are all approaching the problem of wasted food.

A Comprehensive Roadmap

ReFED believes that data can drive changes to the food system by providing insight on how, where, and why food goes to waste. In 2016, the nonprofit, which is guided by a coalition of business, nonprofit, and government leaders, released “A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent,” an economic study that outlines 27 steps toward reducing food waste over the upcoming decade. The roadmap shows that concerted prevention tactics, including standardized date labeling, consumer education campaigns, and packaging adjustments, will divert the most waste. You can download the report, or read more about the 27 solutions and how they compare, on ReFED’s website.

Reduce: Preventing Excess

Source reduction, or cutting back on overproduction and overstocking, is essential for stopping the food waste cycle before it starts, according to the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy guidelines. Businesses, organizations, and indi­viduals can audit their waste and make behavioral and structural changes, saving not only food but also funds. A number of schools have adopted this approach, including The University of Texas, Austin, which has conducted plate waste audits every year since 2008 and seen significant waste reductions ever since. Melissa Terry, a University of Arkansas graduate student, recognized the need for a school-specific resource and co-authored a “Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits.” This publication is full of strategies, most of which are centered on prevention, that encourage student involvement in measuring and curtailing waste. You can find the guide on the EPA website.

Reuse: Diverting Unused Food

Some solutions focus on using food that’s already been produced. Food Shift in Alameda, California, reduces food waste and hunger simultaneously by working with communities, businesses, and governments to recover and redistribute surplus food. The nonprofit hosts events, consults on waste reduction, implements food-recovery programs, and advises the government on effective interventions, among other strategies. It also operates Food Shift Kitchen out of a housing community called Alameda Point Collaborative (APC). This catering service processes food waste from produce suppliers into plant-based fare for local businesses, and it trains and hires the people who live at APC, many of whom live below the poverty line and face multiple barriers to employment. Plus, the kitchen's profits subsidize products for other agencies serving food-insecure populations. 

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