The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed a formal agreement (PDF, 579 KB) to reduce food loss and waste in October 2018. The three agencies renewed the agreement (PDF, 724 KB) in December 2020, reaffirming their commitment to improve coordination and communication efforts to better educate Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.
Through the Initiative, the agencies affirm their shared commitment to reduce food loss and waste. They also agree to coordinate action to leverage government resources to reduce food loss and waste, including action to educate Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.
Individually and collectively, these agencies contribute to the Initiative, encourage long-term reductions and work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste in the United States. These actions include research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation, and policy discussion.
FY 2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy
To achieve the vision for the Initiative, the agencies developed a strategy to prioritize and coordinate their efforts. In development of this strategy, the agencies built on information from several sources, including, but not limited to:
- Managing for Results: Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms (U.S. Government Accountability Office). This report highlights two key elements for successful collaboration: 1) clarity of roles and responsibilities and 2) written guidance and agreements.
- A Call to Action by Stakeholders: United States Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal developed by the EPA in consultation with USDA. The key activities identified by stakeholders in this report include: seek prevention strategies and use the Food Recovery Hierarchy; increase public awareness; improve the data; forge new partnerships and expand the existing ones; clarify date labels and food safety; and build food loss and waste infrastructure.
- A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent (PDF, 12 MB) (Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data (ReFED)). The report finds that the most cost-effective solutions are: 1) standardized date labeling and 2) consumer education campaigns.
- Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations through Federal Policy (PDF, 3 MB) (Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and Natural Resources Defense Council). Recommendations in this report include: 1) enhance liability protections for food donations; 2) standardize and clarify expiration date labels; and 3) publish food safety guidance for food donations.
The strategy prioritizes six action areas:
PRIORITY AREA 1: Enhance Interagency Coordination
Improving interagency coordination will enable USDA, EPA and FDA to use government resources more efficiently and effectively. An interagency, collaborative mechanism will be established to reduce programmatic redundancies and leverage complimentary activities.
PRIORITY AREA 2: Increase Consumer Education and Outreach Efforts
Households are a major source of food loss and waste in the United States. Most consumers are unaware of the consequences of food loss and waste. A coordinated consumer education effort by USDA, EPA and FDA, in conjunction with public, private or non-profit partners, has the potential to raise awareness, motivate consumers to take action and accelerate progress to reduce food loss and waste.
PRIORITY AREA 3: Improve Coordination and Guidance on Food Loss and Waste Measurement
Enhanced coordination and voluntary guidance regarding measurement of food loss and waste will reduce confusion and help establish clearer goals and strategies. Improved and coordinated methodologies can identify missed opportunities and better communicate progress.
PRIORITY AREA 4: Clarify and Communicate Information on Food Safety, Food Date Labels, and Food Donations
Confusion about food safety guidelines, date labels and food donation results in food loss and waste at retailers and in homes across the country. Establishing and communicating clearer, coordinated voluntary guidance on food date labels and liability protection around food donation could help increase food recovery and lead to reductions in food waste and food insecurity.
PRIORITY AREA 5: Collaborate with Private Industry to Reduce Food Loss and Waste Across the Supply Chain
The food industry, including processors, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and foodservice establishments, has an important role in reducing food loss and waste. Showcasing and building partnerships through efforts such as the USDA/EPA U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, as well as connecting stakeholders with food waste reduction technologies, will help stimulate further efforts throughout the food supply chain.
PRIORITY AREA 6: Encourage Food Waste Reduction by Federal Agencies in their Respective Facilities
Federal facilities operate food service venues, including cafeterias and concessions, and manage events. Encouraging the reduction of food loss and waste at these facilities and events will demonstrate federal leadership and implementation of the administration’s priorities.
Federal Interagency Collaboration - inventories of initiative actions
USDA, EPA and FDA, in conjunction with public, private and nonprofit partners, create an annual inventory of actions. The most recent inventory is for May 2020 – April 2021: inventory of actions (PDF, 666 KB)
Dr. Jean Buzby
USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison