Around 52 million tons of food are wasted each year in the United States despite 1 in 7 US citizens lacking reliable access to sufficient, affordable and nutritious food. While raising consumer awareness is an important food waste reduction strategy, interventions at the corporate level have a crucial role to play in addressing the issue on a large scale.
First, ReFED, a multi-stakeholder nonprofit committed to reducing food waste in the US, has launched the Retail Food Waste Action Guide, a tool to support grocery retailers in developing and implementing food-waste reduction strategies. The guide, which was developed in partnership with Deloitte Consulting and the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), finds that food waste represents an $18.2 billion opportunity for grocery retailers.
ReFED works directly with food businesses, innovators, investors, foundations and policymakers to implement food waste solutions, setting a clear path to achieve the national goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. The Guide builds on ReFED’s 2016 Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent report and draws on the expertise of industry professionals from retailers such as Kroger, Publix, Target, Wegmans, Walmart and Whole Foods.
“ReFED’s Retail Food Waste Action Guide offers a fresh opportunity for companies already deeply engaged on the issue of food waste, as well as those just starting out, to take a 360-degree view of their operations in search of new approaches and solutions,” said Andrew Harig, Senior Director of Sustainability, Tax and Trade for the Food Marketing Institute. “The Guide is undoubtedly an important new tool in retailers’ efforts to reduce food waste across the supply chain. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance’s collaboration with ReFED has offered exciting new insights into the importance of active engagement to reduce food loss and we couldn’t be more pleased that the guide is the first product of this effort.”
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An estimated 63 million tons of food, worth $218 billion, is wasted each year in the United States. Reducing food waste increases food security, spurs economic growth and creates local jobs. According to the Guide, the value of wasted food in retail is equal to roughly double the profits from food sales.
The Retail Food Waste Action Guide presents grocery retailers with a set of proven prevention, recovery and recycling solutions to help the industry prioritize and accelerate waste-reduction activities. Prevention solutions such as dynamic pricing and markdowns have the highest profit potential, while strategies such as standardized date labeling, which already exists, are easy to implement.
“Reducing food waste has become a key strategy for businesses to reduce cost while helping people become food secure,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, Chief Sustainability Officer for Walmart and President of the Walmart Foundation. “The Retail Food Waste Action Guide aligns with Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s work to reduce waste, including Walmart’s goal to achieve zero waste in the US by 2025, and to provide 4 billion meals to individuals in need by 2020 through food donations from stores and grants to charitable organizations. We were proud to contribute insights and philanthropic funding to the production of the Guide.”
DoorDash will roll out a pilot program that pairs the company’s logistical expertise with Feeding America’s MealConnect platform. The platform serves as a hub for food donations, linking surplus food with local nonprofits that can use it to feed hungry people. Through MealConnect, DoorDash will help reduce food waste by powering deliveries from restaurants to food banks and shelters.
“Our technology provides an opportunity to solve real problems in the community, which has been part of our company’s ethos since day one, and our partnership with Feeding America is a natural extension of those values,” said co-founder and CEO Tony Xu. “The work Feeding America does to combat one of the largest issues facing our country is impressive and DoorDash is proud to work together to support this massive effort.”
During the month of January, DoorDash is donating one meal through Feeding America for every order placed on DoorDash’s website, Android or iOS app. To amplify this effort, the company will leverage its national merchant footprint and invite one restaurant partner per month through the end of the year — with plans to extend further — to join them in the “one-meal for one-meal” initiative.
“DoorDash’s network of restaurants and extensive national footprint puts us one step closer to our mission of eliminating hunger in this country,” said Nancy Curby, SVP of Corporate Partnerships and Operations at Feeding America. “We are thrilled to be working with a partner that has a keen interest in addressing the core issues of hunger and relief, as well as the technology and operations to make a difference.”
Finally, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is working on new legislation that could help drastically reduce the 3.9 million tons of food waste generated in the state each year and improve food security for an estimated 2.5 million New Yorkers.
Currently, only three percent of food waste in New York is diverted. Cuomo’s organics recycling law would require organizations producing an average of two tons or more of excess food and food scraps each week — including restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, event facilities and more — to arrange for recovery and recycling by January 2021. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont already have commercial organics recycling laws in place.
If passed, the mandate could generate an additional $22.6 million in economic benefits for the state while bolstering food bank inventory by 20 percent.
However, concerns exist about the lack of existing infrastructure to meet the requirements of the legislation and the state’s ability to boost capacity by the 2021 deadline. Cuomo has recommended providing food waste generators with short-term exemptions for scrap recycling if processing facilities are not located within a 40-mile radius. No such options will be offered for food donation.
The proposal will be voted on in April and, if approved, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation will have until June 2030 to assess regional capacity and inform affected businesses of expected compliance. Once the law is in effect, businesses will be required to provide annual progress reports beginning in March 2022.