Sixty-three million tons of food is wasted in the U.S. every year, a staggering volume that exacerbates multiple issues within the food system. It translates to huge losses along the supply chain. It wastes water and fertilizer. Then, there are environmental concerns, as rotting organics pile on landfills and release methane into the air.
On the flip side, focused efforts to reduce food waste create jobs, provide opportunity to make compost and energy and could help feed the 40 million hungry people in the U.S., according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The problems and opportunities around food waste are why organizations like Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and nonprofit Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data (ReFED) are pushing for policy around this issue.
ReFED recently put out its “Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent,” a national study and action plan to cut food waste at scale.
“When we published the Roadmap report, we found a few top-level areas that can be used to accelerate food waste reduction, with one area being public policy. You can get more people involved,” says Chris Hunt, communications director for ReFED.
A lot is going on at the state level. And the first comprehensive piece of federal legislation around food waste has been in the works for a couple of years.
“Some current laws make it hard to reduce food waste, like date label laws in several states that restrict donations past a certain date,” says Hunt.
“But laws can also provide incentive to do good, like tax incentives for donating. So, laws can be a barrier, or they can be used to drive people to make better decisions,” says Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.
In the most recent legislative session, 91 pieces of food waste-related laws were proposed in 30 states, 22 of which have passed into law.
“There’s been a lot of activity. But a lot of change is needed yet,” says Broad Leib.
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