This past January, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2020 and designated 2014 as the “European year against food waste.” Members of the European Parliament have called improving the efficiency of our food system and reducing food wastage “a matter of urgency,” stating that:
The most important problem in the future will be to tackle increased demand for food, as it will outstrip supply. We can no longer afford to stand idly by while perfectly edible food is being wasted. This is an ethical but also an economic and social problem, with huge implications for the environment.
Additionally, the United Kingdom government has helped conduct a public awareness campaign called Love Food Hate Waste that plastered London with fancy billboards encouraging people to waste less food.
And what has the U.S. government done to tackle food waste? Close to nothing.
OK, that’s not entirely true. During World War II, the U.S. government had a massive campaign, with posters that still make for good kitchen decorations, to discourage wasted food in order to save food for the army. One of my favorites is “When you take more than you can eat, you cheat your buddies in the fleet.”
But since then, there hasn’t been a whole lot of action. The EPA runs a laudable-for-its-meager-budget Food Recovery Challenge that provides recognition and shares best practices for businesses preventing and recovering food waste. There’s also one team at USDA which, as only part of its responsibilities, collects some information about food losses at the retail and consumer levels of the supply chain. Other than that, the government’s involvement is pretty barren.
Our neighbors across the pond show us we’ve got a lot of catching up to do in terms of prioritizing food waste reduction at a national level. It is due time for the U.S. government to act on the food waste crisis with real urgency and leadership as well.