- A new Zero Food Waste Coalition launched Wednesday to advocate for policy changes that will meet the federal government's goal of halving food waste by 2030. The coalition is spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, ReFED and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic.
- The group released a list of priorities for the omnibus farm bill on the docket this Congress, including increased funding for composting and other food waste infrastructure and promoting interagency collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA.
- The groups seek more than $200 million in annual funding to both bolster existing office and programs and fund new research into food waste reduction solutions.
The announcement comes as Congress hosts a series of listening sessions around the country to prepare for the 2023 Farm Bill, which reauthorizes programs for the USDA and EPA and includes nutrition programs like SNAP every five years. The groups launching the coalition had previously convened in 2020 to release a Food Waste Action Plan, which was supported by industry representatives such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association, The Kroger Co. and Unilever.
The Zero Food Waste Coalition, comprised of nonprofits, businesses and lawmakers, sees the 2023 Farm Bill as a key tool to address the 38% of food produced in the U.S. that is wasted. “This multi-year legislative package could be one of the most important tools we have to combat food waste — if we do it right,” the group notes on its website.
Wednesday’s announcement was supported by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine. Pingree relaunched the Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus on April 12 with Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.
The federal food waste reduction goal was announced in September 2015 in a joint announcement by the USDA and EPA. The most recent data from EPA indicates food loss per capita was still increasing as of 2019.
The 2018 Farm Bill included $25 million in annual funding for the USDA to support planning and implementing food waste reduction strategies. It also established a Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison to coordinate efforts at the USDA, a collaborative approach the newly formed coalition seeks to expand.
They call for $100 million in annual appropriations plus $20 million in mandatory annual funding in this year's farm bill to establish a Food Loss and Waste Reduction Office that can administer grants and collaborate with EPA to track effective food waste reduction policies.
The coalition is also advocating for a federally-standardized food labeling system, an issue previously championed by Blumenthal in the Senate and Pingree and Newhouse in the House. The changes would help tackle the $30 billion per year in food wasted due to date label confusion, according to research by ReFED.
The coalition also called for $50 million for the Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Cooperative Agreements program, which began in 2020. States would be eligible for the new funding, which could also go toward implementation rather than just planning, a priority for groups like the U.S. Composting Council.
Finally, an additional $50 million in annual funding would go toward research through the USDA targeting food waste reduction before products reach consumers. It would also support research into new technology to extend the shelf life of certain perishable goods.
A farm bill draft has not yet been released, but experts predict action could ramp up as soon as next month.