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Reducing Food Loss and Waste with Improved Food Safety Regulations

72 billion pounds of safe, edible food goes to waste each year in the U.S. In fact, an estimated 25 – 40 percent of food grown, processed and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed. Despite this, state and local health departments across the country have food safety laws that may prohibit or hamper the donation of unused goods to charities.
People Impacted
$ 47B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

According to the USDA's latest Household Food Insecurity in the United States report, more than 37 million people in the United States struggled with hunger in 2018, while 14.3 million American households were food insecure with limited or uncertain access to enough food. Despite these starving people, some legislation requires unused food to be thrown away (Feeding America).

Symptoms and Causes

Billions of Food Goes to Waste in the US Annually

There are two main kinds of wasted food: food loss and food waste. Food loss is the bigger category, and incorporates any edible food that goes uneaten at any stage. In addition to food that’s uneaten in homes and stores, this includes crops left in the field, food that spoils in transportation, and all other food that doesn’t make it to a store. Some amount of food is lost at nearly every stage of food production Food waste is a specific piece of food loss, which the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS), defines as food discarded by retailers due to color or appearance and plate waste by consumers.” Food waste includes the half-eaten meal left on the plate at a restaurant, food scraps from preparing a meal at home and the sour milk a family pours down the drain (Food Print).

Complicated Legislation Blocks Good-Doers

The federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects donors and recipients from civil or criminal liability short of gross negligence and misconduct. However, this legislation remains unproven and untested in court, leaving corporate legal departments without a precedent to follow that would allow them to fully support food donation. It is challenging to create scalable solutions, which requires awareness campaigns and educational materials to change mindsets for a wide variety of businesses. Political bureaucracy may delay any efforts to enact sweeping legislative changes that would define a national standard for safe food handling and donation practices (ReFED).

Lack of Knowledge on the Issue

Another reason why food waste has become such a large problem is that it has not been effectively measured or studied. A comprehensive report on food losses in the US is needed to characterize and quantify the problem, identify opportunities and establish benchmarks against which progress can be measured (Food Print).

the impact
Negative Effects

Negative Environmental Effects (New Food)

  1. It wastes water - throwing out millions of tons of food, we also waste uncounted millions of gallons of water that was used to plant, grow, sustain, or otherwise produce it.

  2. It releases methane - When food is thrown out, it eventually makes its way to landfills (which can themselves be a problem for the environment). As that food begins to decompose or rot, it releases methane gas.

  3. It wastes land - About 900 million hectares of non-arable land are used in the production of the world’s meat products. Moreover, when you count all of the land needed to produce other foods, like the millions of pounds of fruits and vegetables we waste each year, the use of land skyrockets.

Negative Social Impact

  1. Wasting Food While Stomachs are Empty- An estimated 141 trillion calories worth of food is wasted in the U.S. each year. Based on a recommended daily intake of 2,000 calories, 530,136 people could be fed for an entire year on food wasted in the U.S. That is more than the population of Tucson, Arizona – the nation’s 33rd largest city (Quest).

  2. The lost consumer surplus resulting from our food waste pushes up the price of food. This loss has a relatively greater impact on poorer individuals, as food costs account for a greater percentage of their income. Higher prices and lower quantities of food invariably cause nutritional deficiencies for lower-income people. This, in turn, may result in externalities like higher healthcare costs and lost productivity from individuals weakened by nutritional deficiency and food insecurity (Economics Review).

Economic Impact

A substantial amount of money is wasted producing food that is never used. Additionally, one must consider the wasted labor, material resources, time and energy that go into food production. It’s nearly impossible to estimate the potential economic benefits from redirecting these resources, but the situation carries considerable gravity. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently estimated annual losses of $1 trillion from resource costs (Economics Review).

Success Metrics
  • Reduce Food Waste and Loss

  • Standardize Donation Regulation

  • Promote and Legally Back The Good Samaritan Donation Act

  • Educate the General Public on Ways to Reduce Personal Waste

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Food Recovery Agencies

  • Food Banks

  • USDA

  • Food and Agricultural Organization

  • Farmers

  • Grocers

  • Hungry Americans

  • Environmentalists

financial insights
Potential Solution Funding

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports agricultural research, education, and extension programs that help solve societal challenges. NIFA invests in research projects with a food loss and waste focus and funds the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers programs and funding to help businesses and institutions address inefficiencies and environmental impacts across the food system, from agricultural production to processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management. Among these resources, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. EPA is one of 11 federal agencies (including USDA) that participate in SBIR to help develop innovative technologies that protect human health and the environment, including projects that address preventing food waste

Ideas Description

Promote apps and tools that help business and consumers reallocate excess food and eliminate excess to begin with:

  • goMkt is an online platform that helps retailers reduce food waste, drive foot traffic to stores, and increase revenues, at no extra cost. No matter the size or type of retailer, goMkt can help your business to earn additional revenue, reduce disposal costs, and promote an eco-friendly brand.

  • permanently ends hunger and the waste of locally grown fresh food. Working in 4,200 communities is all 50 states, it uses public awareness and technology to enable America's 62 million home/community gardeners to donate their surplus harvest to one of nearly 9,000 food pantries for the rest of their gardening life. This provides freshly harvested food to hungry families nearby.

  • Hunger in the United States makes no sense because in our digitally connected world, bridging the gap between excess and access isn’t just possible. It’s simple. Unlike traditional models, Food Rescue US lowers overhead costs, increases access to fresh food, and ensures that food rescued today is delivered today. The impact has been huge – and with your help, it will grow exponentially.

  • Food for All is a marketplace for surplus food, designed to make sure delicious meals are tasted, not wasted. Restaurants post surplus meals on our app at 50% off for pickup during designated times, often an hour before close. As 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted, our mission is to further the zero food waste movement by rewarding businesses and people that take care of our planet.

  • Transfernation is NYC's first on-demand food rescue service. Using our iOS app, you can request a pickup for untouched extra food. We'll take it off your hands and to the closest local feeding program. We take care of all the messy logistics because half your day should not be spent trying to figure out who wants your extra food and how to get it to them. That's our job.

  • YourLocal is a social enterprise that helps locals save money and reduce food surplus with their favorite neighborhood shops and restaurants. By connecting patrons & restaurants through the YourLocal app, restaurants can post their unsold food and alert nearby users who want to snag a tasty deal before day’s end. Simply review the deal, buy the meal, and pick it up at the shop before closing.

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