Tackling climate change and alleviating hunger: States recycle and donate food headed to landfills

by Sophia Chen
Food Waste Reduction

Addressing Climate Change and Hunger: States Take Action to Reduce Food Waste

In the past, surplus food in the grocery business was often destined for the landfill. However, a shift is underway, exemplified by Sean Rafferty, the store manager for ShopRite of Elmsford-Greenburgh in New York, who is now preparing boxes of bread, donuts, fresh produce, and dairy products for donation to a food bank. This change is part of a statewide program that mandates larger businesses to donate edible food and recycle any remaining food scraps.

In New York and across the United States, there is a growing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of food waste. Globally, approximately one-third of all food is wasted, and in the U.S., that figure rises to a staggering 40%, according to the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. This wastage not only consumes valuable landfill space but also contributes to global warming, as decomposing food releases the potent greenhouse gas methane.

Emily Broad Leib, a Harvard University law professor and director of the school’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, emphasizes the alarming consequences of food waste. It accounts for 8% to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and squanders a significant portion of the nation’s water supply used in food production, much of which ends up in landfills.

Efforts to combat food waste have gained momentum in recent years. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency set a goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. This objective has spurred state-led initiatives and nonprofit endeavors aimed at curbing food waste.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have implemented measures to reduce, compost, or donate food waste, with all 50 states enacting legislation to protect donors and recovery organizations from legal liability associated with donated food. States like California and Vermont have launched programs to convert food waste into compost or energy, while Connecticut mandates food waste recycling by businesses. In Maryland, farmers are incentivized with tax credits for donating food.

New York’s program, now in its second year, has made a substantial impact. It has redistributed 5 million pounds of food, equivalent to 4 million meals, through Feeding New York State. This initiative encompasses a wide range of institutions, including colleges, prisons, amusement parks, and sporting venues, all required to donate surplus food.

Despite these positive developments, there are concerns that more needs to be done to achieve the 2030 reduction goal. Advocates for food waste reduction, including Emily Broad Leib, argue for a coordinated national effort to harmonize various state and local policies. While donation programs are valuable, there’s a broader consensus that preventing food waste in the first place is the ultimate solution.

In conclusion, as the United States grapples with the twin challenges of climate change and food insecurity, the fight against food waste has taken center stage. States like New York are leading the way, but a collective effort is needed to ensure that the 2030 target is met, minimizing the environmental impact and helping feed those in need.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Food Waste Reduction

What is the main objective of the statewide program mentioned in the text?

The main objective of the statewide program is to reduce food waste by requiring larger businesses to donate edible food and recycle any remaining food scraps, thereby addressing environmental concerns and helping to alleviate hunger.

What are some of the environmental consequences of food waste mentioned in the text?

Food waste contributes to global warming as decomposing food releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. It also consumes valuable landfill space and results in the wastage of a significant amount of water used in food production.

How much food is wasted in the United States, and what is the financial impact?

In the United States, approximately 40% of all food goes to waste, leading to an annual expenditure of around $218 billion on growing and producing wasted food. This includes 52.4 tons that end up in landfills and 10 tons never harvested from farms.

What is the 2030 goal set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency?

The 2030 goal is to reduce food waste in the United States by 50%. This ambitious target aims to significantly curb food waste and its associated environmental and economic impacts.

How are states and localities taking action to combat food waste?

Many states have passed legislation or executed policies to reduce, compost, or donate food waste. Additionally, all 50 states have laws in place to protect donors and recovery organizations from legal liability related to donated food.

What initiatives are mentioned in the text that help address food waste?

The text mentions various initiatives, including converting food waste into compost or energy, mandating food waste recycling by businesses, offering tax credits to farmers for food donations, and setting up systems to facilitate food donations.

What is the concern regarding the 2030 food waste reduction goal mentioned in the text?

The concern is that while progress is being made at the state and local levels, there is a need for a coordinated national effort to ensure that the 2030 reduction goal is met. Advocates argue that a more comprehensive approach is necessary to tackle this issue effectively.

More about Food Waste Reduction

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GreenThumb November 25, 2023 - 11:32 am

I’m all for reducin’ food waste, but ain’t prevention better than donatin’? Let’s not waste it in the first place!

Reader42 November 25, 2023 - 10:23 pm

interesting stuff on how them states is doing somethin’ ’bout food waste, ‘specially them big businesses gotta donate that food now, makin’ things better for folks.

FoodieLover November 25, 2023 - 10:51 pm

whoa, 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste? That’s a lotta good grub, we should be more careful with it.

EcoWarrior22 November 26, 2023 - 2:21 am

da environmental impact be huge with all that food wastin’, glad they makin’ compost and stuff, but we gotta do more!

PolicyGeek November 26, 2023 - 4:56 am

Need a national plan to tackle food waste, them states doin’ their bit, but we gotta work together to hit that 2030 goal!


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