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food waste

Food Waste Reduction through Farm to School Programs

October is Farm to School Month! The USDA Farm to School Program helps schools incorporate local foods into meal programs and supports local food and agriculture education through grants, research, and technical assistance. Less plate waste may be a benefit for schools implementing farm to school. According to the 2019 School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study (SNMCS), approximately 21 percent of calories available in school lunches were wasted – 31 percent of vegetables and 41 percent of milk were discarded from lunch trays. Evidence from the SNMCS indicates participation in a farm to school program was associated with a lower percentage of waste for calories in the School Breakfast Program, and higher participation in the National School Lunch Program.

On-Demand Resources Now Available from the USDA Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair

September 29 is International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. Earlier this month, USDA hosted a convening to raise awareness of food loss and waste mitigations across the supply chain. The second annual Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair showcased some of the latest food loss and waste mitigation technologies, programs, and innovations from USDA agencies, universities, local governments, and businesses.

Community Resources to Combat Climate Change and Food Loss and Waste

Local communities face many challenges when mitigating and adapting to climate change. Cities across the country are experiencing the effects of increased natural disasters, limited resources, sea-level rise, and other impacts. Municipalities and stakeholders have an opportunity to curb greenhouse gas emissions and increase food security through addressing food loss and waste.

Food Waste and its Links to Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

Food loss and waste is estimated to be roughly one third of the food intended for human consumption in the United States. When food is discarded, all inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, and storing discarded food are also wasted. Food loss and waste also exacerbates the climate change crisis with its significant greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. Production, transportation, and handling of food generate significant Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions and when food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.

Virginia Schools Pilot Offers Food Waste Education

Through a unique collaboration with USDA’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, food leftovers from six district schools in Prince William County, Virginia, are now being sorted, bagged, and collected before being mixed with organic yard waste and processed into compost at the county’s recycling center. In the first six weeks of the program, almost eight tons of food scraps have been recycled rather than buried in the county landfill.

USDA Roundtable Highlighted Food Waste Reduction Success Stories

On September 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hosted a virtual roundtable titled Exploring Food Waste Solutions: Success Stories from the U.S. and Beyond. This event showcased innovative policies and approaches to reducing food waste in the United States, Europe, and the United Kingdom. The moderator, Emily Broad Leib from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, discussed how food laws can be a barrier to food waste reduction when they are confusing and a motivator when they align incentives, such as to donate wholesome excess food to those in need.

Key Messages on the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste

Around the world, roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted from farm to table, amounting to around 1.3 billion tonnes per year. Covid-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in our food systems and heightened the need to remedy food loss and waste (FLW), both locally and globally.