Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced Winning on Reducing Food Waste, an initiative aimed at coordinating the federal government to educate Americans on the importance of reducing food waste. Although not yet backed by new financing or laws, the initiative should be celebrated for affirming basic federal commitment to the cause.
The initiative suggests that Food Waste, unlike environmental protection at large, just might escape the mire of partisan politics. And if it sets a baseline, perhaps more will be possible. Whether it was inspired by a genuine desire to relieve pressure on the Earth’s ecosystems or not, winning on Food Waste is a step toward winning on climate change.
A science-denying pundit could cry “FAKE NEWS!” at the fact that Food Waste is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and still have plenty of reasons to care. Here are just a few:
- Food Waste flies in the face of market capitalism. The economic loss from Food Waste is estimated to be on the order of $218B a year, a 1.3% drag on GDP. That’s akin to wiping out the entire economic output of Connecticut. The money that it takes to grow, process and/or distribute food that spoils becomes a spoiled investment, leaving money on the table.
- Food Waste is a thorn in the side of a just society. The fact that 46 million tons of food is wasted while 1 in 7 Americans are food insecure is, frankly, embarrassing. You can see how it even challenges fundamental aspects of our American identity: Is this the land of plenty, or of empty? Meanwhile, taxpayers spend billions each year on fighting hunger. In short, Food Waste hurts everybody, from owners to earners, from the very well off, to—especially—the most in need. Food Waste is a stain on our national brand that can—and with help from partners of all sectors and stripes, will—be removed.
I hope Winning on Reducing Food Waste sets the tone for more an open Federal dialogue on the issue. Food Waste can’t be solved by market forces (e.g. business interests), because Food Waste is by definition a failure of markets. When markets fail and impose the costs on society, we rely on government action. Business alone is simply not capable of fully solving the problem.
Here’s why: In a perfect world, farms grow exactly the right amount so there’s enough for all. Yields are balanced by demand. Food processing is so efficient in this perfect world that no single kernel of value is left unsold. Distribution is so frictionless and accessible to all that food never gets a chance to spoil. Consumers know exactly how much to buy from retail, how to use it up, and bear the full cost of the value of their food, from pasture to plate. But, alas! Perfect worlds don’t exist. And neither do perfect markets. Capiche?
Winning on Reducing Food Waste is proof that Food Waste is compelling to even some of the shortest-term thinkers our nation has ever seen. It is proving to be one of the most relatable, common-sense environmental issues, something our country can unite behind in divided times. As the initiative's release acknowledges, “effectively reducing food waste will require cooperation among federal, state, tribal and local governments, faith-based institutions, environmental organizations, communities, and the entire supply chain.”
When it comes to progressing environmental policy, we need to take whatever wins we can get, and use them to earn more. Winning on Reducing Food Waste is tentative step. But it suggests potential. As the founder of a company built on the thesis that food can have more potential than we may realize, that’s something I can work with.
Want to join the mission and support intelligent food waste policy? There are many ways to get involved, but one is to let your representatives know that you support policies that will accelerate food waste reduction.
One easy way is to text “resist” to 50409. From there, sending your message to the right people takes just a few minutes of your time. Here’s a sample of what it might look like. Took me about 150 seconds:
Let’s better align our food system with the planet we love, together. Make your voice heard! And, whatever you do, VOTE!