Taking a bite

The Save The Food campaign is working toward reducing food waste throughout the U.S.

The Save The Food ad campaign is comprised of statistical information on food waste.

Food waste has become an increasingly popular topic among the waste industry and municipalities. Joanne Berkenkamp, senior advocate for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), New York City, recently said that up to 40 percent of food is wasted in the U.S.

The environmental impacts and what the public can do to help reduce food waste was the topic of a June 29, 2017, webinar presented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled, “Results and Local Examples of the Nationwide Public Service Campaign to Reduce Wasted Food.” The webinar was part of the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Web Academy Webinar series.

According to NRDC research, the average American family of four spends $1,500 on uneaten food per year, and an individual throws around 20 pounds of food in the trash per month. Twenty-one percent of food that is grown and uneaten is landfilled per year.

Berkenkamp said the amount of food wasted in the U.S. is a “major climate change issue” that takes up 21 percent of water use, 18 percent of fertilizer use, 9 percent of cropland and creates the greenhouse gas (GHG) equivalent of 37 million cars per year.

“[The Save The Food campaign] is set to inform and inspire,” Berkenkamp said during the webinar.

[The Save The Food campaign] is set to inform and inspire.” – Joanne Berkenkamp, senior advocate, NRDC.


NRDC partnered with the Advertising Council (Ad Council), New York City, to start the Save The Food campaign in April 2016. The campaign’s goal is to disrupt old habits and create new ones.

Hilary Landa, Save The Food’s campaign manager at the Ad Council, said the campaign had two primary targets: millennials and moms. “Moms are still ‘food gatekeepers,’ while millennials are more socially conscious,” Landa said.

The purpose of the campaign, Landa said, is to drive consumers to SaveTheFood.com to learn how to reduce food waste through better meal planning, smarter food storage and innovative recipes. The campaign leverages video, radio and web ads, including partnerships with companies such as Vice, Food Network and Buzzfeed.

The print ads depict food items with facts about food waste, such as “trashing one egg wastes 55 gallons of water” and “40 percent of food in America is wasted.”

In 2016, Facebook donated $1 million in media. The media donated to the campaign created impressions from 5.72 million users, reached 3.8 million users and resulted in 115,000 clicks to the site.

Food Network integrated the campaign with its Earth Day specials, including an episode on the reality-based competition show “Chopped Jr.” that focused on using leftovers as meal ingredients. Food Network also created 30-second public service announcements (PSAs), published an article titled “Easy ways to reduce food waste” on its website and created four co-branded videos, promoting each piece of content online. Overall, the Food Network donated $787,000 worth of media.

Pinterest donated $100,000 in media that came to fruition through nine regular posts and two cinematic posts that appeared on the website. These “pins” created 8.5 million impressions, 800,000 engagements and 15,000 clicks to the Save The Food site.

“We’re already seeing an impact, which is great,” Landa said.

Photo provided by the Burbank Recycling Center in Burbank, California.


The Ad Council created monthly and weekly reports from preliminary data, which was gathered from April 2016 to May 2017 from surveys answered by millennials and moms. Nine thousand, eight hundred people in the demographic responded to the survey.

The data showed that $35.5 million of donated media caused 12 million online views, a 24 percent awareness rate for the PSAs, 28,000 social media followers, 1.2 million website sessions and an increased percentage of 54 from 51 percent of people who believe food waste is an issue in the U.S.

Recognition of the PSA among general market adults grew from 18 percent in May 2016 to 31 percent in May 2017. Twenty-four percent recognized the campaign one year after it launched.

As of the June webinar, Save The Food was supported by $18 million worth of out of home media (OOH) $14 million in television, $370,000 in print, $1.5 million in digital and $2 million in radio campaigns. The study showed that millennials are aware of all assets while moms are more aware of print and OOH assets.

Between April 2016 and May 2016, SaveTheFood.com had 1.8 million page views, 1.2 million sessions, 962,000 users who stayed on the website for an average of one minute and fifteen seconds and a 31.34 percent bounce rate.

In terms of social media, Save The Food has 28,000 followers total on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Almost 4 million users viewed videos on Facebook, and there has been a total of 4.1 million social engagements. Forty-five million total social impressions have been measured.


In August 2017, Save The Food started the second phase of its campaign, which is aimed at combating food waste at the consumer level.

The Ad Council and NRDC released a video with Dan Barber, co-owner and chef at Blue Hill, New York City, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York. The organizations also tapped SapientRazorfish, New York City, to develop a new skill for Amazon Echo devices. It’s designed to educate consumers on ways to limit food waste in their homes.

The NRDC also updated its 2012 report, “Wasted.” The report includes statistics on the environmental, economic and social impacts of food waste and studies areas of progress at the government, business and consumer levels in the last five years. It also offers policy solutions to reduce food waste.

Since the webinar, the Ad Council and NRDC also gathered updated data on the campaign. Adults who recognize the PSAs said they sought information more often about ways to waste less food (59 percent) than those who did not (17 percent). Adults who recognized the campaign’s PSAs said they more often discussed information about wasting less food (64 percent) than those who did not (33 percent). Recognition was up from 31 percent in April 2016 to 36 percent by March 2017 among millennials.


Part of the organization’s campaign was to work with various cities, counties and universities, along with private recycling, compost hauler and food service companies, to introduce Save The Food to their communities. Six partners, including Dakota County, Minnesota, contributed a total of $28,350 to cover costs for printed OOH ads.

Dakota County Environmental Specialist Jenny Kedward said in the webinar that social media, billboards and collection trucks helped spread the word between March and December 2017.

Dakota Valley Recycling posts about the campaign twice per week on social media. Haulers are also using the space available directly on collection trucks to advertise the campaign.

Kedward said the state mandated a 75 percent diversion goal by 2030 that includes organics collection and recycling.

“People increasingly recognize that saving food saves money, saves water and helps save the planet,” Berkenkamp said in a press release. “Making even a few small changes in our daily lives can have a big impact. Together, we are building a better future for our children—and we’re starting it right in our own kitchen.”

The author is assistant editor of Waste Today and can be reached at hcrisan@gie.net.

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