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15 Food Giants, Retailers Step Up to Chop Food Loss and Waste by 2030

In the 2015 documentary, Just Eat It, Grant Baldwin discovers a trove of unopened hummus in a grocery store dumpster. | Image credit: Jen Rustmeyer/Just Eat It

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy have recognized 15 U.S. businesses and organizations pledging concrete steps to reduce food loss and waste in their operations 50 percent by 2030, as recommended by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The inaugural class of U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions comprises Ahold USA, Blue Apron, Bon Appétit Management Company, Campbell Soup Company, ConAgra Brands, Delhaize America, General Mills, Kellogg Company, PepsiCo, Sodexo, Unilever, Walmart, Wegman’s Food Markets, Weis Markets and YUM! Brands.

“The founding 2030 Champions have shown exceptional leadership in the fight to reduce, recover and recycle food loss and waste,” Vilsack said. “The staggering amount of wasted food in the United States has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change. To help galvanize U.S. efforts to reduce food loss and waste, USDA and EPA announced the first U.S. food loss and waste reduction goal in September 2015. Today, the first 15 Champions are stepping up to do their part to help the nation reach this critical goal.”

“Reducing food waste is good for business, it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for our communities,” McCarthy said. “We need leaders in every field and every sector to help us reach our food loss goal.  That’s why we’re excited to work with the 2030 Champions and others across the food retail industry as we work together to ensure that we feed families instead of landfills.”

The EPA estimates that in the United States more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in everyday trash, about 21 percent of the waste stream. Keeping wholesome and nutritious food out of landfills helps communities and the 42 million Americans that live in food insecure households. Reducing food waste also impacts climate change as 20 percent of total U.S. methane emissions come from landfills.

Each 2030 Champion establishes a baseline marking where they are today and will measure and report on their progress toward the goal in a way that makes sense for their organization. There are many ways to look at food loss and waste and definitions vary. 2030 Champions are encouraged to consult the World Resource Institute’s Food Loss and Waste Protocol for information on defining and transparently measuring food loss and waste.

For food waste in the U.S., EPA’s Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures provides an estimate of the amount of food going to landfills from residences; commercial establishments like grocery stores and restaurants; institutional sources like school cafeterias; and industrial sources like factory lunchrooms. USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that the amount of food that went uneaten at the retail and consumer levels in the baseline year of 2010 represented 31 percent of the available food supply, about 133 billion pounds of food worth an estimated $161.6 billion.

Cutting food waste in half by 2030 will take a sustained commitment from everyone. Success requires action from the entire food system including the food industry, non-profits, governments and individuals.

"Weis Markets is excited to join USDA/EPA's Food Loss and Waste Champions Program. We see it as an opportunity to participate with like-minded industry peers to share best practices in our collective journeys to reduce and ultimately eliminate the food waste we generate,” said R. Kevin Small, VP of Construction & Development at Weis Markets Inc. “Weis Markets has made significant progress rolling out programs such as composting food waste at 70 locations, donating food in our local communities and recycling our cooking and waste oils into energy through anaerobic digestion. Through the Food Loss and Waste Champions Program, we anticipate the alliance will be a valuable tool in reaching our goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. Ultimately, this will enable us to realize our mission and to lessen our environmental impact on the communities we serve.”

USDA research estimates that about 90 billion pounds comes from consumers, costing $370 per person every year. USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion produces a resource, called Let’s Talk Trash, which focuses on consumer education, highlighting key data and action steps consumers can take to reduce food waste.

Details on becoming a U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion can be found at usda.gov/oce/foodwaste and epa.gov/sustainable-management-food. Businesses not yet in a position to make the 50 percent reduction commitment can participate in the Food Recovery Challenge or the U.S. Food Waste Challenge


Libby MacCarthy is an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands, based in Maine and France. She is a former urban planner specializing in sustainable cities, and an urban farming and film photography enthusiast. She holds a BA in Environment, Society and… [Read more about Libby MacCarthy]