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EPA, USDA, Others Set Nation's First Goals on Reducing Wasted Food

September 16, 2015

EPA and USDA Join Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Goals to Reduce Wasted Food

WASHINGTON -- Today, U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the United States’ first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. As part of the effort, the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation’s natural resources. The announcement occurs just one week before world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption. As the global population continues to grow, so does the need for food waste reduction.

“Let’s feed people, not landfills. By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Today’s announcement presents a major environmental, social and public health opportunity for the U.S., and we’re proud to be part of a national effort to reduce the food that goes into landfills.”

“The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This announcement demonstrates America’s leadership on a global level in getting wholesome food to people who need it, efficient use of natural resources, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste.”

Food loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change. Food loss and waste is the single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions, which fuel climate change. This large volume of wasted food is a main contributor to the roughly 18 percent of total U.S. methane emissions that come from landfills. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the United States.

Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions. It is estimated that at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, food loss and waste totals $161 billion dollars.

Ongoing federal initiatives are already building momentum for long-term success. In 2013, USDA and EPA launched the
U.S. Food Waste Challenge, creating a platform for leaders and organizations across the food chain to share best practices on ways to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste. By the end of 2014, the U.S. Food Waste Challenge had over 4,000 active participants, well surpassing its initial goal of reaching 1,000 participants by 2020. EPA is working with nearly 800 grocers, restaurants, venues, stadiums, and other organizations to reduce wasted food through prevention, donation, and composting. In 2014, participants in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge diverted nearly 606,000 tons of wasted food, which included over 88,500 tons donated to people in need.

USDA and EPA will also continue to encourage the private sector—food service companies, institutions, restaurants, grocery stores, and more—to set their own aggressive goals for reducing food loss and waste in the months ahead. Organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, which recently approved a new resolution to halve food waste within the operations of its 400 retailer and manufacturers members by 2025, are helping to lead the way.

The United States is leading global efforts to address the threat of climate change. The first-ever national food waste goal is just one part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting our environment for future generations. Since President Obama took office in 2009, the United States has
increased solar generation by more than ten-fold, tripled electricity production from wind power, and reduced greenhouse gas pollution in the United States to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. By setting achievable environmental goals, this Administration is making strides to help boost the economy and protect the health of American families for the long-term.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:  EPA and USDA Join Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Goals to Reduce Wasted Food

A wide array of voices from across the food chain applauded the announcement of the first national standards for food waste reduction. Here’s what they had to say:

Deborah Hecker, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, Sodexo North America
“Most people don’t realize how much food they waste every day. As the 18th largest employer in the world, Sodexo is committed to identifying sustainable holistic solutions that reduce or repurpose food that would otherwise be wasted.  We are proud of our longstanding relationships with the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture and look forward to working with them on a greater scale to address this issue with the release of the food waste reduction goals.”

Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO, Food Marketing Institute
“Food retailers are community minded, neighborhood focused and intimately connected to the lives of their shoppers; as such they work closely with their customers on those issues touching both the heart strings and the purse strings. Reducing food waste at all levels in the food chain - farm, factory, store and home - is certainly one of those issues with economic and emotional appeal.”

Jeremy Kranowitz, Executive Director, Sustainable America
“Sustainable America has a goal to increase food availability by 50% by 2035, and we see reducing the amount of wasted food as a major part of the solution. We commend the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership and collaborative focus on this critical issue.”

Craig Hanson, Global Director of Food, Forests, and Water, World Resources Institute
“The first ever U.S. national goal on food waste reduction will bring multiple benefits for food security, natural resources, and the economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency are showing leadership by announcing a national goal that will ensure more food gets from the farm to the fork and will save consumers money. The new U.S. national goal is also consistent with Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 that focuses on food loss and waste reduction.”

Jonathan Mayes, Senior Vice President, Albertsons
“Reducing food waste is an important priority for Albertsons Companies. As part of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, we are focused on source reduction as well as providing food to other good causes such as hunger relief organizations and animal feed.”

Jilly Stephens, Executive Director, City Harvest
“City Harvest appreciates the inclusion of hunger relief groups as part of this national goal to combat food waste. Over 49 million Americans live in food insecure households, including nearly 1 in 5 New Yorkers, and yet 31% of our country’s food supply is wasted.  Food rescue is an important way that we can help bridge the gap between the manufacturers, producers, distributors, and consumers who have too much food and our neighbors who are struggling to put meals on their tables regularly.”

Jason Ackerman, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, FreshDirect
“FreshDirect is pleased to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on this initiative. Reducing food waste is a significant issue facing food retailers. Our work with community partners like City Harvest to reduce food loss can be a model for others, but clearly more can be done. FreshDirect is proud to stand with President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on this important initiative.”

Eric Ripert, Chef and Co-owner of Le Bernardin and Vice Chairman, City Harvest Board of Directors
“At Le Bernardin we have donated food to City Harvest for nearly 20 years. We recognize that the great amount of excess food in our country can be used to feed hungry Americans and reduce food waste at the same time. Setting a national goal for food waste reduction is an important step to help address many issues and we are proud to stand with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency in this new initiative.”

Erin Fitzgerald Sexson, Senior Vice President, Global Sustainability for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
“Under the leadership of the nation’s dairy farmers, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is working to promote a more sustainable food system. Recognizing that food recovery is an important approach for addressing hunger, safeguarding the environment and reducing costs, we applaud the establishment of a national goal for food waste reduction. Likewise, dairy farms and businesses are making public commitments to measure, reduce, recover and recycle food waste, including participation in the Environmental Protection Agency Food Recovery Challenge and the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.”

Bill Thomas, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Feeding America
“Feeding America applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the significant food waste reduction goal announced today. As a leader in the recovery and donation of nutritious food to feed struggling Americans, our network of food banks and food rescue organizations have firsthand knowledge of the challenges involved in reducing food waste. We are excited to work with the U.S. Department of


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