Award-winning chefs from across the country, including ‘Top Chef’ head judge Tom Colicchio, gathered in Washington, D.C. on May 25 to advocate for food waste reduction in the American food system. In hopes of educating lawmakers on the severity of the issue, the group met with 22 Senate and House offices in tandem with a first-of-its-kind House Agriculture Full Committee hearing assessing food waste from farm to table.
“Food waste is a more than $200 billion dollar problem in America. It hurts the economy, our environment and our people,” said Colicchio. “As chefs, it’s in our best interest to make sure safe, edible product does not go unused. We are here to help Congress understand that it’s in our country’s best interest to do the same. I am happy that so many chefs and leading experts are here with me today to help drive positive, bipartisan change.”
The fly-in was organized by the Food Policy Action Education Fund (FPA-EF), a national food policy organization Colicchio co-founded. The advocates used data and insights from Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data’s (ReFED) Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste, released in March, to push for “common sense action that can be taken now to address this urgent and very solvable problem” ahead of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The organizations assert that a staggering 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. is never eaten, while one in seven Americans is “food insecure.” They estimate that America spends 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) growing, processing and transporting food that goes to waste. The U.S. Department of Agriculture set a goal to reduce wasted food by 50 percent by 2030, but there is still a long way to go.
“ReFED’s Roadmap shows an achievable path to a 20% reduction of food waste within a decade through 27 cost-effective, feasible, and scalable solutions that could be implemented today to generate thousands of new jobs, bolster the economy, and divert 13 million tons from landfills and on-farm losses,” the FPA-EF said in a press release.
The advocates that gathered in Washington included award-winning chefs Victor Albisu (DC), Mourad Lahlou (CA), Spike Mendelsohn (DC), Patrick Mulvaney (CA), Steven Satterfield (GA), and Kevin Sbraga (PA); the CEO of food distribution company Copia (formerly Feeding Forward), Komal Ahmad (CA); NRDC Senior Advocate JoAnne Berkenkamp (MN); NRDC Scientist and Waste Free Kitchen author Dana Gunders (CA); Wasted Food author Jonathan Bloom (NC); MissionPoint Capital Partners Managing Director Adam Rein (MA); FPA-EF Executive Director Claire Benjamin DiMattina (IL); and Jesse Fink, Trustee of The Fink Foundation and one of a dozen ReFED funders.
The group met with 22 Senate and House offices and delivered a petition with over 4,000 chef and food advocate signatures asking Congress to drive more bipartisan solutions and market signals to reduce food waste. FPA-EF asserts that food waste reduction policies “will help create thousands of jobs, alleviate hunger and conserve energy and resources.”
“Food waste is a major untapped resource to help achieve three critical national priorities – hunger alleviation, innovation to boost economic growth, and water and resource conservation,” Fink said. “We were invited to help educate Congress on the Roadmap and its federal policy reform recommendations that have broad multi-stakeholder support to build ‘a new food waste economy.’”
Last week in Washington, D.C., environmental organization Feedback distributed free meals to 5,000 people for their one-day event, Feeding the 5000 to raise awareness on the issue of food waste and policy. Elsewhere in the U.S., the food waste fight has led to city-led initiatives such as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Zero Waste Challenge in New York City, and numerous startups facilitating food redistribution.