Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), with support from ReFED and Food Policy Action, released Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill, a report detailing how Congress can take action to reduce food waste, with a focus on opportunities to make such changes in the next farm bill. Passed every 5 – 7 years, the farm bill is the largest piece of food and agriculture-related legislation in the United States that addresses virtually every aspect of our food and agriculture system, from crop insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Yet, although each farm bill appropriates nearly $500 billion to support our food system, not a single dollar is spent to ensure that the food produced in this country makes it to people’s plates instead of the garbage.
In the US, we waste approximately 40% of the food we produce, and this waste has tremendous economic, social and environmental costs. As we throw 62.5 million tons of wholesome food into the landfill each year, approximately 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure. We spend precious natural and economic resources—about 20% of fresh water, farmland, and fertilizer and $218 billion per year—to produce, process, distribute, and dispose of this food. The farm bill provides a predictable and visible opportunity to address food waste on a national scale.
Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill outlines 17 recommendations organized to reflect the priorities outlined in the EPA’s food waste reduction hierarchy. Similar to the EPA hierarchy this report breaks food waste recommendations into categories based on whether they are intended to reduce food waste at the source, recover more food for those in need, or recycle food scraps through composting or anaerobic digestion. The report also proposes a system of government coordination to ensure that food waste solutions can be effectively implemented and remain a federal priority. Each recommendation is followed by implementation opportunities, which describe how the policy change could be incorporated into the farm bill or other federal legislation.