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Compared to much of the world, the United States is a remarkably prosperous nation. We grow more food than any other nation in human history.

It makes sense that we would discard a significant amount of the food we purchase. 30% of our food, according to the government, ends up in landfills. One can argue whether or not that is true. In contrast, the EU only discards 10% of the purchased food. In any case, it’s undeniable that a sizable amount of the food we purchase ends up in landfills.

To what extent is food waste an issue? Our success has resulted in a considerable deal of food waste, as anyone who has ever removed “mystery meat” from the back of the freezer can attest. Fortunately, we can forget a meal or two and throw it out. Households discard food for a variety of reasons, including food that has gone bad according to the manufacturer’s expiration date or simply because we didn’t like it.

That is something that the US government wishes to alter. The New York Times reports that the White House plan aims to “change the behavior of both companies and individuals to lower waste, as well as to fund research into extending the life of perishable foods, expand donations, and turn such waste into commodities like gas, compost or animal feed.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated in a statement, “Everyone has a responsibility to play in reducing food waste, and I hope that these commitments will motivate and catalyze action in the private arena and communities around the U.S.”

It goes beyond customer service. Supermarkets discard much more food, mostly because it is past its expiration date or has soured. According to ReFED, a national nonprofit organization devoted to eradicating food loss and waste, commercial concerns account for the majority of food that is thrown out.

Going one step further, a number of jurisdictions require supermarkets and other food vendors to provide food that they would otherwise discard out of compassion.

Are private homes up next? Emily Broad Leib, the director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, stated, “I would love to see the federal government offer more incentives to towns and states that enact such rules. Achieving a national organic waste ban would be challenging for many reasons.

According to The Times, the White House intends to lobby Congress to provide funding for “research into technology that could increase the shelf life of food, such as new seed varieties and improved packaging.”

In addition to helping students learn food waste reduction techniques, the government will fund research to assess the “efficacy of different consumer messaging to urge households to decrease food waste,” particularly in school cafeterias, which may be major sources of food waste.

Will the government mandate that teachers instruct students in food waste management techniques? They don’t really need to learn anything more, do they?

Author: Scott Dowdy


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