A Big Plan to Fight Food Waste

Photo: USDA


Every year, American consumers, businesses, and farms spend $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing food that is never eaten. That’s 52 million tons of food sent to landfills annually, and 10 million tons that go unharvested or discarded on farms.

Meanwhile, one in seven Americans is food insecure without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

A report by Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (ReFED) – a collaboration of more than 30 business, government, investor, foundation, and nonprofit leaders committed to reducing US food waste – analyzes 27 food waste solutions that can cut food waste in the United States by 20% — or 13 million tons annually.

The Roadmap to Reduce US Food Waste is the first national economic study of food waste with a true plan for action. Its implementation would help spur economic growth, create jobs, increase food security and reduce environmental damage caused by food waste.

The Roadmap will require $18 billion of investment over the next decade, but will yield a net economic value of approximately $100 billion through lower food bills, new businesses, additional meals donated to the hungry, and a lower government tax burden.

The ReFED plan would also catalyze more than 15,000 new jobs, annually recover over 1.8 billion meals for the hungryreduce national water use by over one trillion gallons, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 18 million tons.

“When we waste food, we waste all of the resources it takes to bring it to our plates—from money to farmland, energy and water,” said Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (an EarthShare member organization and collaborator on the report). “The food industry should use this roadmap to prioritize actions that keep more food on our plates, and out of the trash.”

To ensure the Roadmap accurately represented the current landscape and included actionable insights, ReFED built an Advisory Board of leading organizations across sectors including Ahold, Bon Appetit Management Company, Sodexo, Walmart, Waste Management, Feeding America, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Harvard University, World Resources Institute (WRI), California State Board of Food and Agriculture, the EPA, and the cities of New York, Phoenix, and Seattle.

“Food businesses are leaving almost $2 billion of potential profit on the table annually,” said Kyle Tanger, a director with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leader of its sustainability practice. “It’s crucial for food businesses to take steps to understand where food waste is occurring in their value chains — and invest in solutions to reduce it and recover profits.”

The benefits of fighting food waste are achievable, feasible, and realistic today, but they will not be realized without a concerted effort. Stakeholders must commit to four action steps:

  • New financing to scale proven solutions
  • Commonsense policy change
  • Adoption of emerging innovations, and
  • Consumer and employee education

The Roadmap is just the beginning as ReFED strives to build on the efforts of other pioneers in this space and will work to implement these solutions.

Want to help fight food waste in your community and workplace? Visit the ReFED website for helpful tools and resources. Together, we can meet or exceed our country’s goal of 50% food waste reduction by 2030.



The Future of Garbage: Curbside Compost, EarthShare

Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, NRDC

What’s Food Loss and Waste Got to Do with Sustainable Development? A Lot, Actually, WRI





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Hello Barb! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful resource for our readers!


In Green Bay, WI, there is a non-profit facility that collects slightly damaged food products and redistributes them to the poor. Paul's Pantry was started by a local businessman and is staffed by volunteers and redistributes tons of food each week. Please visit www.paulspantry.org to learn more.

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