This week marks the annual Food Waste Prevention Week, an entire week devoted to educating and inspiring culture change around wasted food. When we waste food, we’re wasting all of the natural resources that went into producing that food and contributing to climate change throughout the lifecycle of that food, including when it is disposed of in landfills or incinerators. Furthermore, wasted food represents wasted money that many folks can’t afford to lose, especially as inflation makes our food more expensive.
This week is about preventing food from becoming waste because, though there are climate benefits from composting and keeping food and organic materials out of landfills, we’ve still wasted all of the water, energy, and land that went into producing, transporting, cooling, processing, and storing the food at every other step of the food supply chain. By preventing food from going to waste and better optimizing our food production, we can prevent further land conversion, biodiversity loss, and agricultural production pressures.
NRDC has been part of the national planning team for Food Waste Prevention Week and we are delighted to see many of our local, regional, state, and national partners joining this movement.
Cities Collaborate to Prevent Food Waste
More than 500 partners across the country and around the globe are participating in their own ways. Many Food Matters city partners are holding in-person events, joining local morning newscasts, and sharing their work on social media.
To kick off the week, NRDC and EPA co-hosted a webinar on Local Solutions to Food Waste, featuring Food For the Soul, Hamilton County R3Source, Food Shift, and Alameda County StopWaste. These county agencies and non-profit food rescue organization pairs have teamed up in their communities on reducing food waste. We heard compelling narratives about dignity, waste as a construct, and relationship-building in our work to recognize the full value of food and all people from farmworkers to eaters.
States Prevent Food Waste
Food Waste Prevention Week originated in California in 2018 with a statewide push to recognize how food waste intersects with the work of numerous state agencies. This year, a handful of state Departments of Environment and Natural Resources have recognized the importance of reducing food waste and have signed up to participate in the week. Though Florida and Tennessee have held onto the lead, Oregon and Washington have been vying for a top spot on the partnership leaderboard with more than 45 partners participating from each of the Pacific Northwest states.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is hosting a week of family-friendly events including a day of service with food pantries and a statewide food drive. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is collaborating on a workshop with cooking tips and demos on backyard composting food scraps.
Congress Caucuses to Reduce Food Waste
A bipartisan caucus, led by US Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), was relaunched this week to promote food waste reduction across the food supply chain, educate Congress on food waste issues, and boost federal agency work on food waste reduction strategies. As Congress wades through the Farm Bill this year, opportunities to reduce food waste abound, and we look forward to seeing some of our coalition recommendations come to fruition.
Earlier this month, US EPA released their latest data on generation and management of food waste in the country showing that we’re backsliding on our national goal to cut food waste in half by 2030. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, we generated more food waste per capita than in prior years and we landfilled more food waste than ever before.
Though we are pleased to see so much conversation about preventing food waste this week, we need to see much more action from all levels of government, from every food business, and from each household to ensure that good food nourishes us rather than feeding climate change.