Food Waste Policy Proposal Could Promote a Sustainable Food Model in the US

40%- that’s how much food is being wasted in the United States annually. Food is wasted in all stages of its production and consumption. (If you’re thinking to yourself “how?”, I would suggest reading NRDC’s pretty comprehensive issue paper from 2012- Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill.)

The food itself is an incredible waste, but if you think about the energy and water (and time) wasted to grow this food… it’s absurd. At this point, we (all sane people) understand the importance of limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to slow climate change. If you understand this, you know that agriculture is a huge contributor.

What if all 40% of the wasted food was actually consumed? Then, obviously, we wouldn’t have to produce so much! Doesn’t this seem intuitive? Having a bill introduced in Congress to address this problem is a good start to minimizing the amount wasted.

House Representative Chellie Pingree (D, ME) introduced the first congressional bill to address food waste in this country. The Food Recovery Act aims to reduce the volume of food sent to the landfill and to increase food security. This bill addresses food waste at the consumer level, in institutions, in supermarkets and restaurants, and on the farm.

I’m sure all of you have seen the “best by” dates on the food you purchase at grocery stores. These dates are bogus; the dates on food are merely just a manufacturer’s suggestion. There is no federal law that requires adding an expiration date. I have consumed food months past the expiration dates and I am still kickin’. (Granted, I won’t eat a piece of moldy bread or stinky cheese, but by my general rule, if it smells ok and looks ok then it is ok.) This bill requires manufacturers to instead use the words “best if used by” with another label stating “manufacture’s suggestion only”.

Additionally, the bill looks to expand tax deductions for farmers, retailers, and restaurants who donate to organizations that serve food insecure families and individuals. The bill also encourages these entities to donate food to those in need. Also encourages schools and other institutions to purchase lower-price imperfect produce. (Shameless plug for a company I’m writing an article about- IMPERFECT PRODUCE based in the Bay Area, CA who sells imperfect produce to consumers of all shapes and sizes.. from supermarkets to individuals. Check it out if you live around there.)

The bill also encourages COMPOSTING! (And if I posted more on this blog, y’all would know that composting is my passion.) Part of the bill looks to create a fund to support construction of large-scale compositing and food waste-to-energy facilities in states (e.g. CT, VT, MA) that restrict food waste going into landfills (which will hopefully encourage more states to make restrictions like this as well).

Another pretty irrelevant part of the bill but one that will undoubtably waste taxpayer money is a national campaign to raise awareness at the household/individual level. This seems a bit (no, I mean very) unnecessary because there are a bunch of organizations already addressing the problem through campaigns. We don’t need another food waste campaign. We need system changes. If the government is on board with tackling this problem (which is what this bill attempts to address), then we need to use government money to actually do something. And we can put a link to all of the non-profit campaigns going on out there to address the waste issue. Please.

Remember to keep an open mind. If you want to learn more about food waste, check out additional sources.

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