It could be a turning point for food waste advocates. The regulatory body Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the first ever Food Waste Reduction Goal for the United States.
September 16, 2015 launched the beginning of a 15 year commitment to cut food waste in half. This ambitious target is important because it addresses food security, and resource conservation. Aside from the aggressive targets placed, collaboration is expected between multiple sectors, including federal governments, private sectors, and charitable organizations. This collaboration seems to stem from the 2014 Food Recovery Challenge, which asked organizations to voluntarily measure, and tackle their food waste using a Reduce, Recover, Recycle model. The original plan was to have 1,000 participants in the FRC by 2020. This less than ambitious goal was soon surpassed, and there are over 4,000 participants today.
Now that there is Federal momentum behind food waste reduction initiatives in the US, what will happen next? Will federal policy changes to support the targets follow? Or will the bulk of the load fall to the already overworked non-profits in the food recovery sector? Fingers crossed for real action; this goal is more exciting than simply a formal commitment to the Food Recovery Challenge.
To reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 will take a lot of work. As our friend Ben Simon points out in U.S. News, there are many gaps to be filled, starting with the data sets. What does a 50% reduction mean without a baseline measure? Well, the estimates being used are, in the words of the USDA, very different from one another, and “neither estimate provides a comprehensive evaluation of food loss and waste in the United States.” Any reduction observed from the 2010, and 2011 estimates of municipal and ‘retail and consumer level’ food waste will be counted as a success by the EPA and USDA. The limitations identified by one of the baseline measure studies can be found here.
Without a reliable baseline measure and policy support, there is little accountability to oversee, and overcome the changes and challenges over the next 15 years. We are excited by the announcement of the goal, and are wary of the action steps and momentum that now needs to follow to allow success. In the U.S., food waste advocates now need to hold the regulatory bodies accountable to this commitment.
We encourage you to read the opinion piece by Ben Simon on this topic “No Time to Waste”
and if you are curious: