Food waste is food for thought
Starbucks recently introduced FoodShare, a program to reduce food waste by donating food from its U.S. stores to those in need. This announcement demonstrates a growing interest to address food waste.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, food constitutes 21 percent of discarded solid waste. This represents the single most prevalent material in our trash and a major opportunity for improvement by environmental agencies and waste producers.
Wasted food includes food fit for human consumption that is sent for disposal. This isn’t spoiled food. Its unsold groceries and untouched prepared food, and it could be recovered to feed people. According to Feeding America, 48 million people in the United States face food insecurity. The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy life.
Food waste describes food unfit for human consumption. This food can be used to feed animals, composted or processed in an anaerobic digester.
Wasting food wastes the water, fuel, energy, labor, land and other resources expended to grow and make food. The liner system in a landfill prevents nutrients from the food from returning to the soil when food is landfilled. In addition, food in a landfill decomposes and generates methane gas, a strong greenhouse gas.
The EPA established the Food Recovery Hierarchy which prioritizes source reduction, feeding hungry people, feeding animals, industrial uses and then composting or anaerobic digestion over landfill or incineration. Any facility that prepares, sells or otherwise deals with food should be familiar with the hierarchy and evaluating opportunities to implement responsible food waste strategies.
The EPA also issued a Food Recovery Challenge under that organizations “pledge to improve their food management practices and report their results”. Any business or organization may join.
In collaboration with the USDA, the EPA announced a goal to reduce US food loss and waste by half by 2030. The EPA and USDA provide more information on how to take action to reduce food loss and waste for individuals, businesses and faith organizations.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations established the SAVE FOOD initiative to combat global food waste. Businesses and non-profit organizations involved in the food supply chain can join the SAVE FOOD effort. The program is also seeking advocates and supports.
From the EPA and USDA to the United Nations, food waste is getting increased attention. Avoiding wasted food at the source, donating food and utilizing alternative management strategies will help divert food from the landfill, increase societal benefits and decrease environmental impacts – and that’s a recipe we can all enjoy.
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