The United States has been trailing behind Europe when it comes to taking action against food waste, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has finally launched a national campaign to bring some much-needed attention to the issue. Food waste awareness in the U.S. seems to have been growing over the past couple of years, with organizations like Food Recovery Network rapidly expanding and individual states taking action; so the Food Waste Challenge could be the catalyst for more serious policy efforts on the issue.
The challenge is directed at every tier of the food chain, from growers and processors to supermarkets and schools, “to join the effort to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste” (USDA). The aim is to get 400 organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020 to set their own food waste reduction goals and take the necessary steps to achieve them. For this, the EPA offers food waste assessment tools, so that participants can determine their current waste levels and costs and set targets accordingly. Other resources include the Waste Reduction Model, providing a general plan of action. The ease of access to these kinds of resources is crucial to make the challenge less daunting, encouraging participation by demonstrating that the issue is not ‘too big to handle.’
Naturally, the success of this project will be measured by the participant organizations’ ability to cut down their waste. Just as important as the actual reductions, though, is the establishment of food waste as a leading national issue. Even though the USDA won’t be able to track how many people hear about the project, every person that learns about food waste through the campaign is a potential waste-fighter. National publicity of the food waste problem will inevitably increase the number of people working against it, even if they don’t sign up for the challenge via an organization. Heightened public awareness will mean more Americans lobbying government agencies to institute anti-waste policy.
This step in the right direction could make a big difference. Well done, America.
Join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge