A Ray of Hope on Capitol Hill

Some good news from Washington! Comprehensive federal legislation to reduce wasted food has just been introduced in both the House and Senate. It’s the Food Recovery Act of 2017 and we have U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) to thank for it. This legislation advances a comprehensive array of common sense policies. It provides a compelling pathway to prevent food from being wasted in the first place, expand donation of surplus food to people in need, and keep what’s left out of the landfill.

As Senator Blumenthal said in a statement yesterday, “This bill would address inefficiencies that lead to waste across all aspects of the food supply chain—curbing the 62 million tons of food thrown out each year in the United States. Simplifying food date labeling and diverting healthy, wholesome food from landfills won’t just benefit the environment—it will help alleviate food insecurity and save consumers and businesses money.”

"Food waste in America is a growing problem, but it is also an opportunity,” added Representative Pingree. “We can save money for consumers, create economic opportunity, and feed those in need while keeping perfectly good food out of landfills. I'm proud to introduce the Food Recovery Act with Senator Blumenthal to support and build on efforts already going on in our communities to ensure that more of our food is put to use rather than going to waste.”

The Food Recovery Act aims to:

  • Help consumers waste less food at home by standardizing confusing food date labels and educating consumers about what the labels actually mean;
  • Modernize the Good Samaritan Act by updating and expanding liability protection for food donors;
  • Expand research by directing the USDA to invest in technologies that increase the shelf life of fresh food and establish a standard for estimating how much food never makes it off the farm;
  • Establish a Food Recovery Liaison at USDA to coordinate federal efforts;
  • Keep good food from going to waste in federal foodservice operations by requiring companies that contract with the federal government to donate surplus food to hunger relief organizations; and
  • Reduce wasted food going to landfill by encouraging composting as a conservation practice eligible for support under USDA’s conservation programs.

These provisions can help consumers and businesses save money and address food insecurity in communities across the country. They can also protect our environment by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and saving water. This is the right time to take a bite out of our wasted food challenge. The Food Recovery Act of 2017 can help pave the way.    

About the Authors

JoAnne Berkenkamp

Senior Advocate, Food & Agriculture program

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