Wow, there are a lot of exciting things going on around here these days. I’ll save the pope’s visit and the UN General Assembly for another post, because first I have to share the news that the USDA and EPA have joined forces to set a nation-wide food waste reduction goal, which just so happens to be the first of its kind here in the US of A. From reading the press releases (one from the USDA; and another from Restaurant News), it looks like the main path to achieving this goal — of 50% reduction by 2050, by the way — is by easing the channels through which grocery stores, restaurants, caterers, farms, and other food and agriculture organizations can donate food to people in need. Thus it’s fitting that the announcement of this joint effort took place in the warehouse at NYC’s very own City Harvest, a food rescue organization that’s been around for over 30 years now.
The groundwork for this national goal seems to have been laid a couple of years ago when the USDA and EPA jointly launched a Food Waste Challenge, of which City Harvest was the winner in its “food rescue organization” category. I hope this effort will ultimately be a true public/private partnership where the onus is not just on the nonprofits and businesses to perform their services, but also on the government agencies to make the rescue/repurposing/donation processes more streamlined and less bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. And I’m really curious to learn more about just how exactly implementation is going to work. What’s the timeline for interim progress? (This would actually make a fantastic capstone project for my former master’s program…)
This food rescue focus feels a bit like a bandaid on an ongoing problem, too. Just as food banks won’t solve hunger, rescuing food certainly won’t reduce by half, let alone end, our problem of food waste. Tristram Stuart, a UK-based leading thinker on food waste has raised the excellent point that perhaps we could start by not growing some of that food to begin with. The national food waste reduction strategy is going to require initiatives even further up the supply chain. Still, I’m optimistic that at least two silo-ed federal government entities are presenting a united front in this new initiative.