The U.S. Food Waste Revolution: Just Starting to Cook

By Jordan Figueiredo
U.S.A. Ambassador for Feedback

In case you haven’t noticed, significant food waste improvements in the U.S. have been mostly dormant over the last five years while successes grow in Europe.  We have had great print pieces such as Jonathan Bloom’s book American Wasteland and Dana Gunders’ paper Wasted that have certainly opened many eyes with astounding figures.  Most notably, figures that tell us almost half of all food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the same time that 1 in 6 people in the U.S. are food insecure.  Jonathan and Dana also showed us that our food system is responsible for a massive 80% of freshwater use, 33% of human made emissions, and 50% of all land use.  This problem, what I believe is the socio-environmental challenge of our time, is actually the socio-environmental opportunity of our time as well and a movement is building in the U.S. to seize this opportunity to end food waste and hunger. 

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Tristram and Jordan on stage at Feeding the 5000 Oakland

So what makes this movement?   While there are many components to the movement, I’ll explore several that I believe are most important at this time.  First off, more and more food service businesses are saving food by employing the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act.  At the same time, we have amazing food recovery organizations like Boulder Food Rescue, Food Shift, and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine springing up all around the U.S. to build on the established and well-oiled food bank system.  Folks like those mentioned above and also folks like Raj Karmani and Zero Percent are increasingly accessing technology like never before.  Raj has developed “the eBay of food recovery” where food to recover is posted online, just like a collectible would be on eBay.  We’re also a trend back into urban foraging for produce with books, apps, and technology like FallingFruit.org and its worldwide open source map.

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Ashel Seasunz at Feeding the 5000 Oakland - credit to Capstreamx.com

Businesses are increasingly utilizing technology such as LeanPath and others to prevent food waste before the plate or shelf.  Government is connecting on the issue more and more by starting programs and shifting recycling or “waste diversion” grants and funds to food waste prevention and food recovery.  Programs such as Food Too Good to Waste and Food Recovery Challenge by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and its local government partners are two great examples.  And now, perhaps most importantly, we’re seeing more folks come together with great multi-organizational collaborations such as in Montgomery County, Maryland where the County government is funding and working with Manna Food Center, Community Food Rescue and Food Recovery Network.  And, if all else fails, more and more businesses are composting food scraps and leftovers as cities and states from coast to coast (okay mostly the coasts) ban organics from the landfill. 

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Soup and Bread at Feeding the 5000 Oakland - Credit to WeltyPhotography.com

What else is trending in the U.S.?  Inspired by Feeding the 5000 events, which started in U.K., the U.S. is poised to see a boom in such impactful events here.  Feeding the 5000 is an amazing 100% free food waste awareness festival developed by the organization Feedback and its creator Tristram Stuart who have had massive impacts on food waste in Europe over the last five years.  And, in addition to the first U.S. Feeding the 5000 which happened in Oakland last year (an event I managed) I am now volunteering my time to help Feeding the 5000 expand and spark massive impact in the U.S.  In addition to assisting several others organize their own Feeding the 5000 events, I am now working on perhaps the grandest Feeding the 5000 yet on the grandest stage.  Tentatively set for New York City in September of this year, it promises to be very inspiring, newsworthy, and impactful so stay tuned for more details soon.  And please help us spark this movement to end food waste and hunger by finding out what you can do at EndFoodWaste.org.

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Food Waste Superstars Gleaning at Bloomfield Organics for Feeding the 5000 Oakland. Credit to Grant Baldwin and www.foodwastemovie.com

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