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Federal Food Waste Policy

Each year, 38% of food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, Each year, the United States generates a huge amount of food that goes uneaten or unsold–over 241 million tons. Of that, 80 million tons of food winds up in landfills, is incinerated, is left to rot in the field, or otherwise goes to waste.  This waste consumes 22% of all fresh water and 16% of cropland in the U.S., and makes up 24% of landfill inputs. The U.S. has attempted to address food waste through a range of policies, such as offering liability protections to food donors and food recovery organizations, providing tax incentives for food donations, and supporting new funding and programming for food waste reduction through the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition, recent federal agency actions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have aimed to reduce food waste, but there is still more that can be done.  

Our Approach

The Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is recognized as the industry leader for our work in identifying, analyzing, and recommending improvements to laws and policies that impact how much food goes to waste in the U.S. FLPC has been heavily engaged in federal legislative and agency activities to reduce food waste, including publishing various reports on federal policy opportunities to reduce food waste, offering analyses that led to the introduction of several pieces of legislation on topics such as standardized date labeling and liability protection for food donations, and advocating for food waste programs and funding in the U.S. Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill, for the first time ever, included dedicated funding and programs to address food waste, including several based on FLPC’s recommendations.

FLPC has conducted research on opportunities to address food waste in the 2023 Farm Bill and include food waste programs and funding in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation, analyzed and offered recommendations on the COVID-19-era Farmers to Families Food Box Program, and collaborated with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), World Wildlife Fund, and ReFED on a U.S. Food Loss and Waste Action Plan for Congress and the Administration.  

The Zero Food Waste Coalition

In 2023, FLPC teamed up with ReFED, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to launch the Zero Food Waste Coalition, a national effort focused on informing and influencing policy at the local, state, and federal levels and sharing policy updates and opportunities for engagement with partners and stakeholders around the country. The coalition brings consumers, businesses and government together to advocate for ambitious food waste policy solutions that contribute to the U.S. goal of halving food waste by 2030, reduce methane emissions from landfills, improve food access and nutrition security, and build more sustainable food systems. 

Federal Food Waste Resources

Learn More

Milk cartons in the background with the title, "Expired"

In the 2023-2024 legislative session, members of Congress reintroduced The Food Date Labeling Act, which would profoundly improve the confusing date labeling system in the US. FLPC’s Not Really Expired campaign urges Congress to pass th​​e Food Date Labeling Act to establish uniform, nationwide date label standards to reduce food waste, promote food donation, decrease our emissions, and save us money.

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