I’ve been seeing pictures on social media that friends from the Midwest have posted of snow. They’re shots of snow on the patio furniture, photos of their dogs playing in the snow, and my favorite, grilling steaks out in the snow. The pictures I don’t like are the ones in which someone is holding a ruler and measuring how deep the snow is. It reminds me of having to shovel snow off the driveway.
The home I grew up in had an arc-shaped driveway in front of the house and at the side, a straight three-lane driveway leading into the garage. Whenever it snowed, I would have to shovel it all equipped with a flimsy snow shovel we had bought on sale. I’d open the garage doors in my moon boots, ski jacket, and sweatpants and stand there for a moment thinking, “There’s no way I can do all of this. It’s too big to handle. I wish I had a snow-blower.”
The website Foodtank.com posted an article on the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC). The FLPC had published a report on food waste and how the US spends $218 billion a year to grow, handle, deliver, and then dispose of food that’s never eaten. The food that’s towed away makes up the largest share of municipal waste in landfills and is responsible for 113 million tons of greenhouse gas each year.
The problem may seem too big to handle, but the 2018 Farm Bill could be our “snow-blower.”
Government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a goal in 2015 to reduce food waste by half by the year 2030. In line with this national goal, large private companies, including Kellogg and PepsiCo, have pledged to cut their food waste by half by 2030. The report states that the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill presents Congress with an opportunity to prioritize the topic of food waste, identifying four areas of focus: food waste reduction, food recovery and redistribution, food waste recycling, and food waste reduction administration.
According to the report, the farm bill “provides an appropriate vehicle for the federal government to take concerted action against food waste” because it impacts most areas of our food system. None of the US$500 billion authorized across the food system in the 2014 Farm Bill was allocated for food waste reduction. “[F]ood waste has not been included in farm bill debates before, so putting the issue on the radar of our representatives will be a critical piece of any progress,” said Emily Broad Leib, FLPC Director.
The Farm Bill can address the issue of confusing food labeling that leads to millions of tons of food being thrown away. The Bill can standardize labeling. It can also provide funds for education and awareness programs. People tend to underestimate the amount of food they actually waste.
The Farm Bill could help fund new technologies that inhibit food spoilage. There’s also the option of funding the transportation and processing costs of getting excess food to the hungry. Additionally, the FLPC report says the Farm Bill could give out grants that financially support local efforts for recycling technology.
The last area of focus in Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2018 Farm Bill is streamlining food waste reduction efforts. Designation in the next farm bill of an agency or a coordinator could allow for comprehensive national research on food waste, and analysis along the supply chain of where and which food is wasted. Additionally, the creation of a task force with representatives from the numerous agencies involved in the food system could help further the implementation of food waste reduction initiatives.
It’s a big chore. But hopefully if we can get it under control, we won’t have to do it again.