USDA, EPA launch U.S. Food Waste Challenge; industry joins

June 5, 2013

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, calling on others across the food chain—including producer groups, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities, and other government agencies—to join the effort to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste.

Food waste in the United States is estimated at roughly 30–40% of the food supply. In 2010, an estimated 133 billion lbs of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants, and homes never made it into people’s stomachs. The amount of uneaten food in homes and restaurants was valued at almost $390 per U.S. consumer in 2008, more than an average month’s worth of food expenditures.

“The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste,” said Secretary Vilsack. “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. By joining together with EPA and businesses from around the country, we have an opportunity to better educate folks about the problem of food waste and begin to address this problem across the nation.”

The goal of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge is to lead a fundamental shift in how we think about and manage food and food waste in this country. The Challenge includes a goal to have 400 partner organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020.

As part of its contribution to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, USDA is initiating a wide range of activities to reduce waste in the school meals program, educate consumers about food waste and food storage, and develop new technologies to reduce food waste. USDA will also work with industry to increase donations from imported produce that does not meet quality standards, streamline procedures for donating wholesome misbranded meat and poultry products, update U.S. food loss estimates at the retail level, and pilot-test a meat-composting program to reduce the amount of meat being sent to landfills from food safety inspection labs.

Through its Food Recovery Challenge, EPA will provide U.S. Food Waste Challenge participants with the opportunity to access data management software and technical assistance ( to help them quantify and improve their sustainable food management practices.

In response to the USDA’s Challenge, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), comprised of leading food retail, food manufacturing, and foodservice companies, issued the following statement:

“The Food Waste Reduction Alliance is pleased to join the USDA’s Food Waste Challenge as a founding partner. The FWRA will look to provide new platforms to educate and engage the food retail, food manufacturing, and restaurant industries on food waste opportunities, challenges, and best practices. One example of how the FWRA will achieve this end is by producing a best practices guide and toolkit this fall, which will help individual companies accelerate efforts to reduce food waste. The toolkit will contain examples of efforts already underway, guidelines, and checklists. Importantly, the FWRA will also research, identify, and report on key barriers that inhibit or complicate the industry’s progress in achieving its primary goals—to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste—and recommend strategies to overcome these obstacles.”

The FWRA was formed in 2011 as a cross-industry initiative by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Food Marketing Institute, and the National Restaurant Association to address the issue of food waste.

USDA press release

FWRA press release