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Category: Food Security

USDA Federal Marketing Orders Help Reduce Food Waste

Oranges at the Seald Sweet processing plant in Vero Beach, Florida

When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns. USDA photo courtesy of Ken Hammond.

USDA’s Food Waste Challenge is underway and federal marketing orders for fruits and vegetables continue to help out in the food donation effort. Under these industry self-help programs that are overseen by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), groups decide minimum quality standards that benefit the entire industry. When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns.

When this occurs, businesses have a couple of options: send the food to the processed market, donate the food to charities and food banks, or process the food into livestock feed. Nearly half of the active fruit and vegetable marketing orders also include comparable import regulations to ensure foreign products meet the same quality standards as those produced domestically. Read more »

Gleaning Sweet Potatoes for a Good Cause

After grading and collecting research data, Larry Adams and his crew fill sweet potato sacks for delivery to the Leland Food Pantry in Leland, Mississippi. There, the freshly dug sweet potatoes will be distributed to low-income families and other needy members of the community. 

Adams, an entomologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Stoneville, Mississippi, figures the potatoes will be made into any number of tasty dishes—from casseroles and pies to chips, gratin and fries. Read more »

Putting Antibiotic Stewardship into Action

The White House on June 2 convened a national forum to seek action on the problem of anti-microbial resistance. The development of antibiotics was one of the most significant medical achievements of the last century, and has helped to save millions of lives. But their overuse or misuse has resulted in the rise of bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics.

The White House has unveiled a National Action Plan designed to advance the appropriate use of antibiotics in food animals as well as promote collaborations among partners in medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health. This is consistent with a “One Health” approach that embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment can only be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions. USDA, which helped develop the National Action Plan, was pleased to join our many Federal partners and continue our work with the agriculture industry at the forum. Read more »

The U.S. Food Waste Challenge at 4,000

Four-thousand and counting! 4,024 to be exact. That is the number of participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge at the end of April, 2015.

These participants– businesses, schools and organizations from across the country— are working to reduce food loss and waste in their operations.  And, they have taken the time to join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge by sharing their activities on the USDA Food Waste Challenge website or working with EPA experts to measure their food waste reductions through the Food Recovery Challenge. Read more »

A European Take on Food Security

U.S. Pavilion at ExpoMilano

The 35,000 square foot U.S. Pavilion at ExpoMilano includes a massive vertical farm that will be harvested daily (photo courtesy of U.S. State Department).

Just like America, Europe is trying to address the challenge of how to feed the 9 billion people who will populate the world by the year 2050. In fact, the theme of ExpoMilano2015 – the world’s fair being held in Milan, Italy, this year – is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” On May 1, the European Union kicked off the Expo with a series of meetings, lectures and discussions surrounding that theme, and I was invited to take part.

The agricultural sector in the EU must produce food for more than 500 million consumers. At the meeting I attended, discussion focused largely on what research priorities should be established to inform the EU’s centralized agricultural policy, specifically on how to achieve three goals: Read more »

Food Waste Can Have a Large Impact on Your Nitrogen Footprint

Boy covering his mouth with his hand in front of a fountain

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers research grants to help respond to the world's water security issues. (iStock photo)

April 22 marks the 45th celebration of Earth Day, with its theme of “It’s our turn to lead.”  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a leader in its support of cutting-edge sustainable and organic agricultural research.

The USDA estimated that 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten in the United States.  It’s not just people throwing away food after “super sizing;” food waste can begin at the farm, where crops are sometimes not harvested because they lack a perfect appearance.  Waste also occurs through spoilage or improper cooking.

As bad as this is in terms of not feeding the hungry, wasting food is also wasting energy, water, and everything else required to grow, process, transport, and prepare food. Improving resource efficiency would also decrease the amount of nitrogen released to the environment. Read more »