State of the Food Waste Union

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to report that the state of our Food Waste Union is strong! I’m not really sure whether that conveys that we’re wasting a lot of food or making progress on the issue, but, oddly, both are true!

The occasion of the actual State of the Union address provides the perfect opportunity to consider our progress on wasted food in America. So…how are we doing?

In the US, we’re making great strides in building awareness on how much food is wasted. And we have an ambitious federal goal–50% reduction by 2030–without much of a plan on how to achieve it. Yet neither the increased awareness nor that goal has translated into tangible progress–yet!–on minimizing the amount of food wasted. We’re ninth out of 34 nations ranked on the Food Sustainability Index for food loss and waste.

With an optimistic outlook, here are some highlights from the last year or so:

  • Drawdown listed reducing food waste as the #3 solution to global warming. Plenty of motivation there!
  • The superb Save the Food ad campaign continued to lead the way, drawing attention to excessive purchasing and date labels in various markets across the country.
  • The Further With Food site launched to provide shared resources on our favorite topic.
  • While launched in 2016, the Food Loss & Waste Protocol began to flourish in 2017. This standard sets requirements for measuring food waste, enabling apples-to-apples comparisons on waste levels.
  • ReFED, having previously provided a roadmap to minimizing 20% of US food waste, just found in a new report that food waste represents an $18.2 billion profit opportunity for US grocery retailers.
  • NRDC released an updated version of its Wasted report (full disclosure: I helped write said report).
  • NRDC also quantified the untapped potential in US cities for more food recovery–almost half of the annual food needs for Denver and Nashville!
  • Wasted, a well-publicized documentary produced by Anthony Bourdain, had no reservations about calling out the stupidity of wasting 40% of our food.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation and many other family foundations are funding expanded work on the issue. In fact, I just heard an estimate that there was $18 billion available in private and government funding for food-waste-fighting initiatives 2017.
  • WWF published Fighting Food Waste in Hotels and is helping to do just that.
  • WWF also published the excellent Food Waste Warrior Toolkit, a free series of resources to teach children about wasted food.
  • Various actors in the food industry are now doing their part. For example, Ikea has the Food is Precious initiative. And retailers Delhaize and Kroger each have ongoing campaigns.
  • Sales of “ugly produce” boxes zoomed on, as Hungry Harvest branched out to three new markets on the East Coast. Imperfect Produce did the same on the West Coast and added Chicago as well.

There’s so much happening, it’s safe to say that the state of our Food Waste Fighting Union is strong indeed!

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