In the United States, over one third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste, according to the USDA. When food is tossed aside, so are opportunities for healthier communities, economic growth and environmental prosperity, it says.
“We’re losing at least $162 billion a year,” says Elise Golan, the director for sustainable development at the USDA and its point person for reducing food waste. “It’s an economic opportunity to change that.”
One opportunity is a joint effort of USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. Together, they share a national commitment to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030, and they have invited businesses and organizations to join the initiative and make the same public commitment. Dozens of companies have signed on, including agribusiness giants ConAgra, General Mills and Campbell’s.
The newest government program, a competition called Ace the Waste, is ideal for students and FFA members. Students ages 11-18 can participate by submitting ideas for reducing food waste. Winners could see their ideas implemented.
“We want to unleash entrepreneurs in this field,” Golan says. “We will also be giving grants to new businesses. It’s an opportunity to create many jobs.”
As for right now, she encourages students and schools to do the following to reduce food waste:
- Have young students take recess before lunch.
- Allow for a longer lunch time.
- Create food share tables for hungrier students.
- Create backpack programs to send excess food home with students over the weekend.
- Do a school audit of food loss, just to know the extent of it.
- Take excess food from a school cafeteria to a local food pantry.
- Compost leftover food waste, using good composting techniques.