The 2019 Food Waste Summit, hosted by ReFED, brought together leaders and innovators in the food system to San Francisco. This summit focused on food waste innovation and actions being taken across the country. The summit was organized like a menu. During the “third course”, a panel representing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agricultural (USDA) announced a new joint agreement between the three agencies—Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative.
What does this joint agreement mean? We’re headed in the right direction. This agreement creates an avenue for coordination between three large agencies with key roles in our food system. A goal this large requires contributions from everyone and that requires a plan of action.
The joint agreement has identified six priority areas:
- 1. Enhance interagency coordination.
- 2. Increase consumer education and outreach efforts.
- 3. Improve coordination and guidance on food loss and waste measurement.
- 4. Clarify and communicate information on food safety, food date labels, and food donations.
- 5. Collaborate with private industry to reduce food loss and waste across the supply chain.
- 6. Encourage food waste reduction by federal agencies in their respective facilities.
These priority areas provide direction for everyone—yay! Industries are talking and consumers are recognizing the magnitude of food waste. However, a voluntary approach to this complex challenge is ineffective. Voluntary measures don’t spark urgency. Partnerships and collaboration are the keys to success.
How are Eat Greater Des Moines and our community taking action to help cut food waste in half by 2030? In the next year we are working to:
Encourage food waste reduction
The challenge: In Iowa, the food industry receives tax incentives when they donate their surplus food. At the same time, non-profits cover the costs of collecting, transporting, and redistributing this food through food banks and food pantries. This unplanned system relies on food waste.
A solution: Eat Greater Des Moines is addressing this disconnect by turning our free food rescue program into a service the food industry pays for. Shifting our model to a paid service, we believe will encourage food waste reduction. There are other, more dignified ways to tackle food insecurity. Encouraging wasteful behavior shouldn’t be one of them.
Increase awareness of food waste
The challenge: The general public is unaware of food waste and food rescue in our community and there’s no accountability and transparency.
A solution: Eat Greater Des Moines is working with the Greater Des Moines Food Rescue Network to create a public tool that will highlight food waste in our community and the impact food rescue has. According to Compassion, Inc., by Mara Einstein, nearly 80 percent of consumers would change their consumption behaviors because of their values. Knowing the power consumers have, EGDM believes a tool like this will empower our community to aid in reducing food waste in Iowa.
I get excited about what our food system could look like in the next 10 years. As Brandi Jansen puts it so nicely in her book Making Local Food Work, “The challenges and barriers…that I have pointed out also represent prospects for making these systems stronger. There is plenty of work to go around for those willing to invest the necessary energy and capital.”
It takes everyone working together to achieve this goal. We are committed to investing in our food system—will you join us?
Thoughts? Questions? Want to share? Contact our team and let’s chat!