This week, the Biden-Harris Administration released its National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics to accelerate the prevention of food loss and waste, which will help cut costs for families, address climate change, and advance environmental justice. This is the first interagency national strategy that lays out a path for the United States to meet its national goal to halve food loss and waste by 2030. To help advance progress toward this goal, the Biden-Harris Administration has invested more than $200 million to reduce food loss and waste from the President’s Investing in America agenda.

Preventing food loss and waste will save families money and lower food costs. In the United States, the average family of four spends $1,500 each year on food that ends up uneaten. The National Strategy is a deliverable in the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Additionally, preventing food loss and waste and recycling food and other organic waste will reduce landfill methane emissions, a key driver of the climate crisis, and advance the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan. Food is the single most common material found in landfills, and 61 percent of methane generated by landfilled food waste is not captured by landfill gas collection systems and is released to the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

The Biden-Harris Administration is also advancing environmental justice through this Strategy. Many of the highlighted programs in the Strategy are covered under the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. The Strategy also recognizes that identifying and addressing the challenges related to food loss, food waste, and organic waste to help meet the needs of Tribal communities as well as communities with environmental justice concerns is integral. These communities bear the brunt of the adverse environmental, social, and economic consequences of waste management, among other systems.

The National Strategy identifies four objectives:

  1. Prevent food loss.
    • USDA is investing in research to address food loss and waste, including $2.7 million in foundational research with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and other funds; a total of $7.6 million through USDA’s Agriculture Research Service from fiscal year 2021 to 2024; and $69.2 million into 76 awards through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative from 2019 to 2023.
    • From fiscal year 2021 to 2023, USDA provided $14.9 million to State agencies that administer The Emergency Food Assistance Program for Farm to Food Bank Projects, which facilitate food donation by building relationships between agricultural producers, processors, distributors, and emergency feeding organizations.
    • In May 2024, USDA invested $1.5 million to fund a Center that will prioritize food loss and waste prevention and recovery among Land-grant Universities, their partners, and external stakeholders and will establish a National Extension Food Loss and Waste Strategy so that extension agents can help educate individuals and communities to reduce food loss and waste.
    • In 2021 and 2022, USDA hosted two Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fairs where thousands of attendees learned about new food loss and waste investments and technologies.
  2. Prevent food waste.
    • USDA invested $15 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding in Community Food Projects grants and Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education. Awards support projects that reduce food loss and waste, get surplus wholesome food to individuals in need, and develop linkages between food producers, providers, and food recovery organizations.
    • USDA invested $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding in Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program grants and an award to work with the National 4-H Council so that youth develop and maintain lifelong practices of minimizing food loss and waste.
    • USDA published materials to reduce consumer confusion about food date labels and to spread the word about the product liability protections of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, including updates from recent amendments.
    • In December 2022, FDA released the most recent version of the Food Code, which included new language reducing barriers to food donations by clarifying for the first time that food donations from retail food establishments are acceptable as long as proper food safety practices are followed.
    • In November 2023, FDA released a fact sheet to help retailers understand and implement recent changes to the Food Code effectively.
    • In November 2022, FDA published the Final Rule on Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods to facilitate faster identification of contaminated food. FDA is also encouraging the entire food supply chain to voluntarily adopt more advanced technology that enables digital tracing technologies, which could dramatically reduce food loss and waste associated with contamination events.
    • From 2021- 2023, EPA released several food waste research reports, culminating in the new Wasted Food Scale, which ranks food waste reduction pathways. These “top” pathways prioritize using food for its intended purpose: to nourish people.
    • In April 2023, EPA updated data and measurement in the 2019 Wasted Food Report and the fourth Anaerobic Digestion Facilities Processing Food Waste Survey.
    • In August 2023, EPA released Version 3.0 of the Excess Food Opportunities Map, which provides data updates for all excess food generators and recipients as well as two new data layers: farmers markets and refrigerated warehousing and storage facilities.
    • USDA and EPA increased membership of the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions from 30 Champions in 2020 to 50 Champions currently. These businesses and organizations have made a public commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50% by 2030.
    • In June 2024, USDA, EPA, and FDA renewed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance to support greater engagement in food loss and waste reduction efforts by food industry members.
  3. Increase the recycling rate for all organic waste.
    • Using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, EPA established two grant programs—the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling program and the Recycling Education and Outreach program—to support communities, states, territories and Tribes with materials management, including food. Of the nearly $200 million in investments announced last fall, more than $83 million went to projects that addressed organics recycling. Many projects supported composting projects, the majority of which included food waste.
    • USDA invested $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding in Composting and Food Waste Reduction cooperative agreements to assist local and municipal governments with projects that develop and test strategies for planning and implementing innovative, scalable compost plans and food waste reduction plans. To date, 119 entities have received a total of $23.3 million. 
    • In 2023, EPA released two new social marketing toolkits around preventing food waste and composting food scraps to provide communities with guidance on developing social marketing campaigns as well as customizable materials to spur behavior change.
    • In February 2024, FDA announced that all grease-proofing agents containing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are no longer being sold by manufacturers for food contact use in the U.S. market. This work reduces potential for contamination of food wastes with PFAS from food packaging.
  4. Support policies that incentivize and encourage the prevention of food loss and waste and organics recycling.
    • In May 2024, USDA, EPA and FDA renewed the formal agreement for the Federal Food Loss and Waste collaboration which now includes the U.S. Agency for International Development.
    • USDA and EPA, with support from other agencies, collaborated with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other international organizations on a report and practical guide with best practices and policies for the reduction and measurement of food waste.

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