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Food waste has recently gained widespread attention for its environmental, economic, and humanitarian consequences. In the United States, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, giving rise to concerns related to greenhouse gas emissions and the billions of dollars lost annually.

As a result, businesses are increasingly becoming more conscious of their contribution to food waste, leading to a growth in sustainability goals and strategies. That said, these efforts require collaboration from government policies and initiatives, which provide the necessary structure and resources for businesses to effectively reduce food waste. So, what is the government doing to reduce food waste?

Keep reading to uncover important food waste government policies and valuable tips for businesses looking to leverage these new initiatives.

Key Takeaways

  • The government is a key player in reducing food waste, with the ability to enhance policies and develop new strategies to address growing environmental concerns. This includes creating financial incentives, standardizing date labels, increasing funding, and improving collaboration efforts, among others.
  • There are multiple food waste government policies that are currently in place to address the growing crisis. These policies provide support for projects, encourage organizations to donate surplus food without legal repercussions, and facilitate food donations. Key policies include the Food Recovery Act of 2017, the Federal Food Donation Act of 2008, and the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
  • There are various government programs and initiatives that help businesses in different sectors reduce food waste, including programs that provide valuable resources, offer grants for innovative projects, and develop and test strategies that support local food waste reduction.
  • Businesses that want to improve their sustainability efforts should apply for federal grants and funding opportunities and utilize tax incentives for food donations. By participating in government-sponsored programs, they can access valuable resources and networking opportunities and gain public recognition for their efforts.

The Scope of Food Waste in the US

Food waste is a multifaceted challenge that affects everyone along the supply chain, with some sectors contributing more than others. Food manufacturing is the largest contributor to waste, accounting for 37.69% of total waste, followed by 24.51% of waste generated in the residential sector and 17.26% produced in restaurants.

The consequences of food waste go way beyond just throwing food away. From an environmental standpoint, food waste affects the environment by contributing to land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and natural resource depletion. Among the biggest concerns, however, is its contribution to methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. In fact, food waste in the U.S. causes greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 50 million gas-powered vehicles, making it a huge environmental concern.

The financial consequences of food waste are also a major concern for many businesses. Overall, food waste in the U.S. costs an estimated $218 billion, or 1.3% of GDP, annually. These financial losses are experienced at every stage of the supply chain, from producers to consumers.

As businesses increase prices to make up for financial losses, it becomes even more challenging for consumers to access essential food products. With over 44 million people in the United States facing food insecurity, this growing issue showcases the immediate need to divert food from landfills and improve resource management.

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How Can the Government Reduce Food Waste?

The government is a key player in reducing food waste, with the ability to enhance policies and develop new strategies to address growing environmental concerns. The government can support waste reduction efforts by:

  • Implementing new regulations: By enforcing innovative regulations, such as restrictions on waste disposal, governments can raise awareness and mandate waste reduction practices in various sectors, including manufacturing, retail, and hospitality.
  • Creating financial incentives: Financial incentives, such as tax deductions, are a great way to get businesses and individuals involved. Though some financial incentives have already been implemented, more are required to enhance participation.
  • Standardizing date labels: Since there’s no uniform system that manufacturers are required to use for food date labels, many consumers struggle with confusing expiration labels, leading to large quantities of waste. By creating a standard system, the government can help prevent premature food disposal.
  • Increasing funding: Increased funding is required to improve research efforts, develop innovative technologies and waste reduction strategies, and enhance infrastructure. This includes implementing strategies like advanced composting methods and food waste tracking systems.
  • Developing educational campaigns: Increased awareness is the first step towards large-scale change, empowering both businesses and individuals to reduce waste at the source, get involved in community initiatives, and create their own waste reduction strategies.
  • Increasing collaboration efforts: Since food waste is a complex issue that requires innovative strategies at different stages of the supply chain, increased collaboration between federal, state, and local governments, as well as private and non-profit sectors, is required.

What is the Government Doing to Reduce Food Waste?

The U.S. government has taken various actions to bring awareness to food waste, using both federal laws and innovative programs to encourage participation. The Food Recovery Act of 2017 and the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act are two key examples of policies that encourage food donation through liability protection and tax incentives.

Waste reduction programs have also helped raise awareness and offer individuals and businesses access to valuable resources, such as the USDA’s Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction (CFWR) Projects and the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Program. These programs provide grants and support for innovative food waste reduction strategies, making way for enhanced participation.

Overall, various initiatives and food waste laws in the U.S. have been implemented to encourage and obligate businesses to participate, such as policies that limit landfill use and incentives for recycling programs. That said, food waste by state varies greatly due to the distinct state- and city-wide laws that are implemented, with some states enforcing more innovative laws than others.

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US Government Policies Addressing Food Waste

There are multiple food waste government policies that are currently in place to address the growing crisis. Keep reading to learn about 3 important legal measures that help promote food recovery efforts.

The Food Recovery Act of 2017

The Food Recovery Act of 2017 was introduced to address the issue of food waste across the supply chain. This bill provides funding and establishes requirements to reduce food waste and standardize date labeling on food. It also provides support for projects like composting and offers various tax deductions on food waste to encourage businesses to reduce landfill use and keep resources in circulation.

The Federal Food Donation Act of 2008

The U.S. Federal Food Donation Act of 2008 encourages federal agencies and contractors to donate excess wholesome food to eligible nonprofit organizations to feed food-insecure people in the United States. To make this possible, federal contracts include provisions to facilitate food donations, ensuring surplus food from federal activities and events is directed to food banks and charities.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects those who donate food in good faith from civil or criminal liability in the event that donated food causes harm to recipients. This act encourages organizations to donate surplus food without legal repercussions, providing protection to both donors and the non-profits that receive the donation. That said, donors should adhere to safety guidelines to ensure donated food is safe for consumption, ensuring they follow proper handling and storage practices to qualify for protection under the act.

USDA and EPA’s Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions

In September 2015, the USDA and EPA announced a food loss and waste reduction goal that seeks to cut food loss and waste in half by the year 2030. This goal aligns with global sustainability efforts and addresses significant environmental, economic, and social issues associated with food waste.

The U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions play an important role in reaching this goal. This group consists of businesses and organizations that have made a public commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their own operations, showcasing their commitment to reaching measurable food waste reduction goals.

In addition to reporting their progress and sharing best practices to contribute to the national goal, these businesses are recognized as sustainability leaders, ensuring that the U.S. improves its waste reduction efforts. Organizations who want to join the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions can submit the 2030 Champions form.

USDA and EPA's Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions
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US Government Programs and Initiatives

In addition to food waste government policies, there are various government programs and initiatives that help businesses in different sectors reduce food waste. Keep reading to explore key programs that support waste reduction goals.

USDA’s Composting and Food Waste Reduction (CFWR)

The USDA’s CFWR program helps local and municipal governments develop and test strategies that support local food waste reduction and composting projects. The goal of this initiative is to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural practices, including community gardens, indoor farms, and outdoor vertical production, among others. As a result, this program diverts food from landfills, promotes community education, improves soil quality, and increases community engagement in sustainable practices.

EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Program

Sustainable management of food seeks to reduce wasted food and its impacts over the entire lifecycle. To divert food from landfills, the EPA’s SMM Program offers grants for innovative projects aimed at reducing food waste across the supply chain, therefore fostering technological innovation and improving supply chain efficiency to minimize waste. As a result, these efforts help conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help businesses and consumers save money, and address food insecurity. Every year, the EPA awards more than $4 billion in funding for grants and other assistance agreements, aiding small nonprofit organizations and large state governments alike.

USDA and EPA’s “Winning on Reducing Food Waste” Initiative

The Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative is a collaborative effort between the USDA, EPA, and FDA that aims to raise awareness and provide resources for food waste reduction through combined and agency-specific actions. To support national waste reduction goals, these actions include research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation, and policy discussion.

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Other Initiatives

Keep reading to learn about two additional initiatives that are aimed at reducing food waste.

The Food Date Labeling Act

The lack of federal standards regarding food expiration dates is a large contributor to food products being discarded prematurely. To address this issue, the Food Date Labeling Act was proposed to establish requirements to standardize the quality date and discard date labels on food packaging, creating a uniform labeling system that clearly distinguishes between safety-related dates and quality-related dates. If approved, this act would instruct the USDA and FDA to work together to educate consumers and food companies about the meaning of new labels, helping them to make better economic and safety decisions and saving millions of tons of food from being needlessly thrown away each year.

Farm Bill 2023-24

The Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024, extends the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill through September 30, 2024. This extension includes continued support for programs aimed at reducing food waste by enhancing food recovery infrastructure and funding research into innovative technologies and methods for reducing food waste throughout the supply chain. By extending the 2018 Farm Bill, businesses have further access to the resources and support needed to implement effective food waste reduction strategies, leading to improved food security, reduced environmental consequences, and economic savings.

Recommendations for US Businesses

Businesses that want to improve their food waste reduction efforts, comply with food waste government policies, and leverage government initiatives should consider the following recommendations.

Actionable Steps

Businesses that are working to improve their sustainability efforts can implement the following methods to optimize results:

  • Utilize tax incentives for food donations: Food waste can qualify for tax deductions when donated to qualified nonprofit organizations, acting as a great financial incentive for businesses. To lower taxable income, businesses should ensure they’re meeting the necessary requirements and complying with local regulations.
  • Apply for federal grants and funding opportunities: Federal grants available for food waste reduction, such as the USDA’s CFWR program or the EPA’s SMM program, are a great opportunity for businesses to reach their sustainability goals. We recommend businesses to apply for these funds to support projects like composting, food recovery, and innovative waste management.
  • Implement best practices: To reduce large-scale waste and streamline processes, businesses can adopt strategies from sustainability leaders. This includes setting measurable food waste reduction goals, tracking progress, and implementing sustainable food management practices like source reduction, food donation, and composting.

Useful Tips

The following tips will help your business stay on track to meet your sustainability goals:

  • Stay informed about policy changes: Staying up to date on policy changes helps ensure businesses remain compliant and take advantage of new incentives. To stay updated on new and upcoming policies on food waste reduction, businesses can subscribe to relevant newsletters, follow industry news, and participate in webinars and workshops.
  • Participate in government-sponsored programs: Businesses should actively engage in programs like the USDA’s “Winning on Reducing Food Waste” initiative to improve their waste reduction efforts. This gives them access to valuable resources, networking opportunities, and public recognition for their efforts.
  • Collaborate with local waste management companies: Partnering with a local waste management company like Shapiro helps companies manage their waste in an environmentally friendly way, ensuring they stay compliant with national and city-wide regulations.

The Bottom Line

Food waste government policies and initiatives help raise awareness, provide valuable infrastructure and resources, and encourage businesses to reduce waste. Over time, we expect to see even more policies emerge to address the current food waste crisis.

Companies that are committed to minimizing landfill use and improving their recycling efforts should consider commercial food waste recycling and disposal solutions. At Shapiro, we provide food by-product waste services that help companies streamline the implementation of sustainable waste management practices throughout their supply chain.

Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Baily Ramsey, an accomplished marketing specialist, brings a unique blend of anthropological insight and marketing finesse to the digital landscape. Specializing in educational content creation, she creates content for various industries, with a particular interest in environmental initiatives.

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