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Rethinking Wasted Food

November 10, 2015

According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, "An average family of four leaves more than two million calories, worth nearly $1500, uneaten each year.”

Recently the first-ever national food waste reduction goal was adopted in our country, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. To help reach this goal, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated that the federal government will lead a “new partnership” with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to “reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation's natural resources.”

Stated EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding the new goal, "Let's feed people, not landfills. By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations."


The US EPA’S Food Recovery Challenge addresses the economic, environmental and social impacts of food waste and helps participants to save money while protecting the environment and benefiting their communities. The Challenge asks organizations, including grocers, universities, stadiums, restaurants, and other venues to make a commitment to three food diversion actions: prevention, donation and composting. Through this free program participants receive tools for implementing wasted food reduction, recovery, and diversion programs, assessing the costs and benefits, plus positive recognition for participation.

Food Recovery Challenge participants are asked to take three simple steps: conduct an assessment of their current practices, set a goal for reducing the amount of food waste being thrown out, and commit to a more sustainable approach by tracking their efforts.

Leading the Way

While many of us are aware of the Food Recovery Challenge and promote it to our business and institutions, there is another important role we can play in helping to reduce wasted food—become a Food Recovery Challenge Endorser.

15-04-23 EPA Award MH-29AwardCroppedEndorsers serve a key role in promoting the wasted food problem, helping others to learn about the issue and the actions that can be taken to prevent it. Simply put, Endorsers do something many of us do on a regular basis—provide resources to others to help them reduce their generation of wasted food. Endorsers may include, but are not limited to, local and state government agencies, religious organizations, trade associations, businesses, waste management facilities, nonprofit organizations, and individuals.

Endorsers are asked to determine outreach activity goals, document and track what outreach and educational activities are conducted, and share these outreach activities through the Challenge program. Examples of outreach activities include: newsletters, presentations, events, meetings, weblinks and website postings, and use of social media.

The goal is to provide outreach and education to grocers, colleges, universities, restaurants, and other venues about the importance of sustainable food management and recruit participants to join the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.

Working with businesses and institutions, offering to assist with waste assessments, training them in ways to prevent and reduce food waste, and connecting them to Challenge resources, participant success stories, as well as the free expertise on reducing wasted food available through the Challenge and tracking software can provide enormous benefits to participants.

It’s easy to join the Challenge, it’s free, and it can help our nation reach its goal to reduce wasted food, help those who are food insecure, and reduce our carbon footprint.

By Athena Lee Bradley


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