Americans waste a third of the food produced or imported in the United States every year and as a result, potential meals for families experiencing hunger rot in unharvested fields and landfills.
Producing this wasted food consumes around 20% of fresh water and cropland and generates around 270 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emission annually, the same as 58 million cars.
The 2018 Farm Bill prioritized food waste for the first time. Congress included several food waste reduction interventions outlined in FLPC’s report on reducing food waste in the 2018 Farm Bill, such as including clarifying liability protections for food donors, financing food recovery from farms, encouraging food waste recycling through community compost funding, and better coordinating food waste reduction efforts across the federal government.
The 2023 Farm Bill poses a remarkable opportunity for Congress to prevent food waste, recover edible food for individuals in need, and fight climate change. “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill,” released today by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) in collaboration with ReFED, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), and World Wildlife Fund, details how Congress can build off of the 2018 Farm Bill and better prioritize food waste reduction.
Initiatives that target food waste could generate $73 billion in annual financial benefits, recover the equivalent of four billion meals for those in need, save four trillion gallons of water, and eliminate 75 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Prioritizing food waste reduction has bi-partisan support, thanks to its economic, social, and environmental benefits.
“Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill” outlines 22 actionable recommendations focusing on food waste reduction, surplus food recovery, food waste recycling, and how the federal government could encourage inter-governmental coordination on food waste issues. Each recommendation details a food waste reduction opportunity that Congress and federal agencies can adopt.
This report makes recommendations that build upon established programs based on stakeholder feedback and subject matter experts on a variety of food policies in the United States. For example, in the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress created the Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Grant Program that helped cities across the United States to implement food waste solutions within their communities. “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill” recommends that Congress expand this program to ensure it meets community needs and establish a new grant program aimed specifically at funding composting and anaerobic digestion infrastructure that could support food waste processing needs across multiple communities.
This report also makes new recommendations addressing food waste gaps in the supply chain and where federal action could spur food waste awareness. For example, Congress can address household consumer food waste, which currently accounts for about 40% of total food waste in the United States, by standardizing date labels on food products and launching a national food waste education and awareness campaign.
The report’s recommendations are based on comprehensive food waste reduction research conducted by ReFed and published in their Insights Engine, stakeholder interviews with Farm Bill funding recipients, and on-going industry actions. The report elaborates upon and adds to the US Food Loss & Waste Policy Action Plan for Congress & the Administration, released in 2021 by FLPC, NRDC, ReFED, and WWF, and supported by many American cities, non-governmental organizations, and industry leaders such as Google, Unilever/Hellmann’s Best Foods, and Marriott International.
Congress can help achieve the national goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030, address food insecurity and climate change, and bolster the economy by incorporating the outlined food waste solutions into the 2023 Farm Bill.
Food Law & Policy, Commentary
A grounding legal education in the Food Law and Policy Clinic
May 18, 2023