USDA launches food waste reduction challenge



Mount Vernon — A nationwide effort is underway to reduce, recover and recycle food waste.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge on June 4 to lead a fundamental shift in how we think about and manage food and food waste.

The USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are calling on producer groups, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities and other government agencies to join efforts to reduce waste in school meals programs, educate consumers about food waste and food storage, and develop new technologies to reduce food waste.

Americans throw away up to 40 percent of their food, making it the “single largest kind of waste in our landfills,” according to a USDA news release.

Food waste in the U.S. is estimated at between 30 percent to 40 percent of the food supply. In 2010, some 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants and homes never made it into people’s stomachs. The value of the uneaten food in homes and restaurants in 2008 came in at almost $390 per U.S. consumer, more than an average month’s worth of food purchases.

“Not only could this food be going to folks who need it, we also have an opportunity to reduce the amount of food that ends up in America’s landfills,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

USDA will also work with industry to streamline procedures for donating wholesome misbranded meat and poultry products, update U.S. food-loss estimates at the retail level, and pilot-test a meatcomposting program to reduce the amount of meat sent to landfills from food safety inspection labs.