Reduce Waste in the Food Supply Chain


The U.S. wastes a staggering 133 billion pounds of food every year, accounting for 40 percent of all food produced in the country, at an annual cost of $161 billion.[1] Wasted food squanders the natural resources, energy, and labor that produced, processed, and distributed it, and generates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since most food waste is sent to landfills, where it releases methane. U.S. food waste causes 4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 14 percent of all freshwater use, 18 percent of all cropland use, and 24 percent of all landfill inputs.[2] At the same time, one in six Americans struggle with food insecurity.

Fortunately, there are many proven, scalable solutions that yield environmental and social benefits while also creating jobs and yielding net economic gains.[3] Public policy plays an important role in accelerating implementation of these solutions, affording policymakers a unique opportunity, given the benefits and economic viability of these solutions, the broad, bipartisan public support for food waste reduction, and the unpopularity of actively lobbying against food waste solutions.

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State Policy Priorities

  • Facilitate the donation of edible food by reducing liability of donors, requiring mandatory donation of surplus food, and providing tax incentives for donations.
  • Divert food waste from landfills through recycling solutions such as composting or conversion of food waste to animal feed.
  • Standardize date labeling or remove date labeling requirements.
  • Fund campaigns for public education on food waste.

State Examples

  • Vermont ( Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 6605k) prohibits food waste from being sent to a landfill, including consumer-generated waste. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island also have organic waste bans or recycling laws.
  • California (2021 CA SB 1383) requires that certain food businesses donate surplus food.
  • Minnesota ( Stat. Ann. § 604A.10) law extends liability protections to direct donations. Liability protections in Massachusetts (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 94, § 328) include the donation of open-dated food whose date has passed.
  • Arizona ( Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-5074) provides a tax incentive for food donation that applies to restaurants and farms.

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