Following the government’s announcement of a plan to decrease the amount of food waste sent to landfills by 50 percent within 15 years, the National Restaurant Association said the goal was “a step in the right direction” and that educating its members on the issue would help make it a reality.
On Sept. 16, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg unveiled the first-ever national food waste reduction goal, which they said would begin with a partnership between the government, charitable organizations, faith-based groups, private-sector businesses and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste, improve overall food security and conserve natural resources.
“The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste,” Vilsack said. “Our new reduction goal demonstrates America’s leadership on a global level in getting wholesome food to people who need it … and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste.”
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy agreed, saying: “Let’s feed people, not landfills. By reducing wasted food in landfills, we conserve our natural resources and protect the planet for future generations.”
According to the USDA, food loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of overall food supply available to retailers and consumers.
Ongoing federal initiatives to reduce food waste include the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, launched in 2013 by the USDA and EPA to create a platform for restaurants and other food businesses to share ways to reduce, recover and recycle food waste. It currently has more than 4,000 active participants.
NRA president and CEO Dawn Sweeney said restaurants are actively involved in reducing food waste, but the key to improving the situation is educating industry members with information they can apply daily.
“Restaurant operators have been working diligently to minimize food waste generation by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and donating unused food to those in need,” she said. “The NRA will continue its commitment to educating our members on the importance of environmental sustainability and waste reduction through our Conserve program and as a founding partner of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.”
The NRA joined the FWRA in partnership with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute to increase the amount of food donated to the hungry and reduce food waste. The collaboration has led to the sharing of best practices and release of tools and research to help solve the issue, said Laura Abshire, the NRA’s director of sustainability.
“The restaurant industry produces its share of food waste and we want to be a part of the solution,” she said. “We’re committed to working with other food-related organizations to address food waste and define ways to divert that waste from landfills into other, more productive, uses.”
Pictured top right: Volunteer sorts donations for food bank distribution