USDA roundtable focuses on food waste solutions

Perdue challenges stakeholders to "change the culture" and take "holistic approach" to combating food waste.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

May 8, 2018

3 Min Read
USDA roundtable focuses on food waste solutions
Secretary Perdue meets with Rep. Chellie Pingree (R., Maine), Rep. David Young (R., Iowa), and food and agricultural stakeholders to discuss solutions to America’s food waste and loss problemsRep. David Young

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hosted a food waste roundtable at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday with Reps. Chellie Pingree (D., Maine) and David Young (R., Iowa), as well as food industry leaders and nonprofit groups.

While food loss and food waste eat up nearly 40% of the food supply in the U.S., millions of Americans need access to safe, wholesome, affordable food. Consumers are responsible for most food loss and waste in the U.S., racking up almost 90 billion lb. annually, or 20% of the U.S. food supply. The retail sector is responsible for about 10%, totaling 43 billion lb. USDA said it is uniquely positioned to address this problem by working with farmers, industry and consumers to raise awareness of food loss and waste and share best practices.

“Our nation’s agricultural abundance should be used to nourish those in need, not fill the trash,” Perdue said. “So many people work on food waste issues in their own spheres, but it’s time to change the culture and adopt a holistic approach to get everyone working together and sharing ideas.”

Last week, Pingree joined Young to launch the bipartisan House Food Waste Caucus, which will look at ways to promote food waste reduction across the food supply chain; provide educational opportunities to congressional members and staff; support efforts to reduce food waste at federal agencies, including USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency, and collaborate with diverse stakeholders to highlight food waste success stories.

The roundtable brought together policy-makers with food banks, producers, restaurants, nonprofits and other organizations to share what can be done to reduce food waste. The group discussed programs throughout the country, potential collaborations and how the federal government can be helpful.

Perdue commended Young and Pingree for their desire to find collaborative, commonsense solutions. In the last two sessions of Congress, Pingree has introduced comprehensive legislation to address food waste across the supply chain, including her legislation to clarify the sell by/best by dates on food.

“As food waste is a costly problem for farmers, businesses and consumers, I think it’s an issue we can all get behind,” Pingree said. “While I’ve introduced legislation to reform policies and programs to reduce food waste, I think there are opportunities for USDA to start tackling this issue immediately, including more closely coordinating with other agencies like (the Food & Drug Administration) and EPA that also have a stake in this issue. I appreciate Secretary Perdue for listening to stakeholders today and for committing to take action.”

Young said the roundtable discussion was the next step in working to stop loss and waste at every step in the food supply chain. "I don't just want something to do; I want to do something that will create a meaningful change tat reduces food waste and combats hunger," he added.

USDA said this roundtable, the first of many USDA public events on food waste, serves as an opportunity to raise awareness while discussing solutions with leaders throughout the entire food supply chain.

Representatives from the following groups were present: National Consumers League, Food Recovery Network, Harvard Food Law & Policy Center, Feeding America, YUM! Brands, Sodexo, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Reinford Farms, American Farm Bureau Federation, Spoiler Alert and World Resources Institute.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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