Earth Day is April 22, and it’s not too early to start planning fresh angles for this year’s coverage. One area of conservation that’s ripe for localizing is efforts to reduce food waste.
Between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply in the United States is wasted, according to the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist, and that represents billions of pounds of waste. Food waste ReFED offers an economic analysis of food waste solutions on its website, calculating that implementing solutions across the food supply chain could represent nearly $2 billion in potential business profits.
Consider these business angles for localizing the issue.
Who’s producing food waste?
Food waste occurs in all levels of the food supply chain, from the farmer to the trucking company and the wholesaler to the grocery store, food processing plant, restaurant or food pantry and finally to the consumer’s plate.
Where does this waste happen and what’s the financial impact? What happens to food in your local schools’ cafeteria kitchens when there’s a snow day? And do kids who rely on school lunches simply go hungry?
In addition to food waste, food packaging is another economic and environmental issue to explore. This recent Los Angeles Times article explored the waste of plastic straws and mentioned several cities that have passed straw restrictions.
Who’s reducing food waste?
Exposing the problem often doesn’t go far enough, so look for innovative solutions in your community and highlight those, along with whatever data you can gather. Are any food businesses in your city using food that might otherwise go to waste? For instance, Toast Ale in the Bronx turns stale bread into beer and UK-based Rejuse uses imperfect produce for its cold-pressed juices.
Have any local restaurants found innovative ways to reduce their food waste? Or does your community have any food swaps where people can share food and prevent waste? What does it take to run those events?
Several apps and online platforms such as Baltimore-based Unsung, Philadelphia-based Food Connect, and San Francisco-based Copia try to connect caterers and restaurants with surplus food with nonprofits that can share that food with the food insecure. Are any serving your community? Why or why not? Are there any local regulatory hurdles to giving away food that are stymying their growth?