After forming a partnership in 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have released their interagency strategy to reduce food waste in the U.S.
With food making up nearly 30-40 percent of the waste stream in the U.S., the agencies launched the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative in October in attempt to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030. The agencies agreed to coordinate food loss and waste actions that include education and outreach, research, community investments, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation and policy discussion on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.
The agencies developed the six-point strategy based on several sources, including:
- Managing for Results: Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which highlights key elements for successful collaboration.
- A Call to Action by Stakeholders: United States Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal, developed by the EPA in consultation with USDA, which identifies key activities stakeholders should make.
- A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent by Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data (ReFED), which outlines the most cost-effective solutions to minimize food waste.
- Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations through Federal Policy by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and Natural Resources Defense Council, which includes several food waste recommendations on food donation standards.
EPA released the strategy April 9 to kick off the newly designated Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month. The agency says on its website that it will add to and build upon the framework of the strategy as related activities and projects are completed through 2020.
The agencies’ six priority areas, as outlined in the plan on EPA’s website, are:
- Enhance interagency coordination. Improving interagency coordination will enable USDA, EPA and FDA to use government resources more efficiently and effectively. An interagency, collaborative mechanism will be established to reduce programmatic redundancies and leverage complimentary activities.
- Increase consumer education and outreach efforts. Households are a major source of food loss and waste in the United States. Most consumers are unaware of the consequences of food loss and waste. A coordinated consumer education campaign endorsed and/or supported by USDA, EPA and FDA in conjunction with public, private or non-profit partners has the potential to raise awareness, motivate consumers to take action and accelerate progress to reduce food loss and waste.
- Improve coordination and guidance on food loss and waste measurement. Enhanced coordination and voluntary guidance regarding measurement of food loss and waste will reduce confusion and help establish clearer goals and strategies. Improved and coordinated methodologies can identify missed opportunities and better communicate progress.
- Clarify and communicate information on food safety, food date labels and food donations. Confusion about food safety guidelines, date labels and food donation results in food loss and waste at retailers and in homes across the country. Establishing and communicating clearer, coordinated voluntary guidance on food date labels and liability protection around food donation could help increase food recovery and lead to reductions in food waste and food insecurity.
- Collaborate with private industry to reduce food loss and waste across the supply chain. The food industry, including processors, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and food service establishments, has an important role in reducing food loss and waste. Showcasing and building partnerships through efforts such as the USDA/EPA U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, as well as connecting stakeholders with food waste reduction technologies, will help stimulate further efforts throughout the food supply chain.
- Encourage food waste reduction by federal agencies in their respective facilities. Federal facilities operate food service venues, including cafeterias and concessions, and manage events. Encouraging the reduction of food loss and waste at these facilities and events will demonstrate federal leadership and implementation of the administration’s priorities.