Every year, American consumers, businesses, and farms spend $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing food that is never eaten.
As a result, up to 52 million tons of food is sent to landfills annually, plus an additional estimated 10 million tons gets discarded or goes unharvested on farms.
Meanwhile, 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure without reliable access to sufficient affordable, nutritious food.
A new report released March 9, 2016 from ReFED – a collaboration of over 30 business, government, investor, foundation and nonprofit leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste – analyzes 27 viable food waste solutions that can be taken today to cut food waste in the United States by 20%. If implemented, the Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste will put the country on track to achieve the national target of 50% food waste reduction by 2030 established by the U.S. government in September 2015.
“Our family foundation is proud to be a seed funder of ReFED. We’ve been investing in food waste issues for the past decade and saw a real need to develop a roadmap as a way to galvanize additional funding and action toward this important issue,” says Jesse Fink, Trustee of The Fink Family Foundation. “Working closely with groups like Community Plates, Center for EcoTechnology, Daily Table and Island Grown Gleaning has provided us with some local level, on-the-ground insights. This report will serve as a path to true impact that yields both economic and environmental benefits.”
“Learning that we waste up to 40% of our food globally while one in seven Americans is food insecure prompted us as philanthropists and a family concerned about healthy communities and ecological sustainability to ask our team to explore the topic of wasted food,” said Betsy Fink, Trustee of The Fink Family Foundation and Owner, Millstone Farm. “Reducing food waste is a tangible way we can all help contribute to a healthier planet and communities.”
The Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste is the first-ever national economic study of food waste to engage a multi-stakeholder group to develop a true plan for action. Its implementation would help spur economic growth, create jobs, increase food security and reduce environmental damage caused by food waste.
The primary finding of the Food Waste Roadmap is significant: actions that are feasible and cost-effective today can cut food waste nationwide by over 20% — or 13 million tons annually. The Roadmap will require $18 billion of investment over the next decade, less than a tenth of a penny of investment per pound of food waste reduced. This investment will yield a net economic value to society of approximately $100 billion over the same period through consumer savings on lower food bills, new sources of business profit, additional meals donated to the hungry, and a lower government tax burden.
Formed in early 2015, ReFED seeks to unlock new philanthropic and investment capital, along with technology and policy innovation, to catalyze more than 15,000 new jobs, annually recover over 1.8 billion meals for the hungry, reduce national water use by over one trillion gallons, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 18 million tons.
The Roadmap uses an analytical framework to assess where waste occurs and the economic potential of each solution, enabling a level of prioritization that has not been possible in previous research. To develop the report, ReFED engaged nationally recognized consulting firms Deloitte Consulting LLP and Resource Recycling Systems and collaborated closely with The Closed Loop Fund, MissionPoint Partners, and Natural Resources Defense Council. To ensure the Roadmap accurately represented the current landscape and included actionable insights, ReFED built an Advisory Board of leading organizations across sectors including Ahold, Bon Appetit Management Company, Sodexo, Wal-Mart, Waste Management, Feeding America, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Harvard University, World Resource Institute, California State Board of Food and Agriculture, the EPA, and the cities of New York, Phoenix, and Seattle.
“Food waste is a critical issue for our society, our environment and our economy, yet until now there hasn’t been a clear and comprehensive plan for reducing it. The ReFED initiative has tackled this challenge head-on and done tremendous work to identify key opportunities and solutions to reduce, recover and recycle food waste,” said Andrea Bretting, Senior Program Officer, Claneil Foundation. “This is the first time that so many leaders are coming together to address this issue, and philanthropy, impact investors and public/private partnerships can play an important role in this effort.”
Other key findings include:
- We Face a Funding Gap: Most of the $18 billion of new investment needed will flow from existing government legislation and natural market forces. However, an estimated $100 to $200 million of new catalytic capital is needed annually to de-risk new innovations, overcome industry bottlenecks, provide low cost project finance, and enable multi-stakeholder solutions.
- Consumers and Businesses Benefit: Scaling Roadmap solutions is estimated to unlock $10 billion in total annual economic value for society ($100 billion over a decade), including $5.6 billion in lower food bills for families and nearly $2 billion in new business profit potential, mainly from restaurants, institutions, and food service providers.
- Recycling is Most Scalable: By investing in recycling infrastructure, training, and policy, 9.5 million tons of food scraps – nearly three-quarters of the total Roadmap potential – can be diverted annually from landfills through anaerobic digestion and composting, reducing an estimated 4.8 million tons in greenhouse gases while creating over 11,000 new jobs.
- Prevention is Most Cost-Effective: Standardizing date labels, consumer education campaigns and packaging adjustments are the most cost-effective solutions that prevent waste from occurring in the first place and provide substantial consumer savings.
These benefits are achievable, feasible, and realistic today, but they will not be realized without a concerted effort. Stakeholders must commit to four levers of action: new financing to scale proven solutions, commonsense policy change, adoption of emerging innovations, and consumer and employee education. The Roadmap is just the beginning. In the year ahead, ReFED will build on the efforts of other pioneers in this space and will facilitate collaboration with key stakeholders to begin working towards the implementation of these solutions. Additional tools and resources will be shared on the ReFED website throughout the year. Ideas, feedback and expertise to build on this work is welcomed and encouraged.
For direct links to the Roadmap’s findings and relevant infographics and resources, visit www.refed.com.
Formed in 2015, ReFED is a collaboration of over 30 business, nonprofit and government leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste by up to 50% by 2030. In March 2016, ReFED released the Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste – the first-ever national economic study of food waste to provide a feasible guide for action. ReFED’s recommended solutions seek to unlock new philanthropic and investment capital, along with technology and policy innovation, to catalyze over 15,000 new jobs, recover nearly 2 billion meals for the hungry, and achieve significant reductions in our national water use and greenhouse gas emissions. For more information and additional tools and resources, visit www.refed.com.
About The Fink Family Foundation
The Fink Family Foundation seeks to move communities toward a more balanced, sustainable relationship with the environment. We support and invest in innovative organizations that preserve and protect the better use of natural resources, biological diversity and enhance the health of humanity. We support and collaborate with those who serve as catalysts and conveners to leverage our impact and accomplish our goals.
About Millstone Farm
Since 2006 Millstone Farm has been building its farming operations, but also, just as importantly, it’s been fostering a sustainable regional food system and cultivating community. In the early days, with unformed markets for local produce like heirloom tomatoes, Betsy Fink and farmer Annie Farrell assembled the networks of local chefs and regional farmers to create the relationships and systems needed. Now, 10 years later farmers and chefs have vibrant and ongoing relationships. At the same time, Millstone Farm acted as a hub for workshops to teach Raising Backyard Chickens, Composting, and Seed Saving for many years, even partnering with CT NOFA and others on Pasture Management and New Farmer Training. Numerous workshop providers have sprouted up in the area, able to take the reign and multiply community education in these important areas. Millstone Farm has always been a venue of exploration and testing ideas; growing small batches of ancient grains, planting milkweed to enhance biodiversity for Monarch habitat, all while providing quality produce and livestock for regional chefs and the local community.