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 »
Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation farmer, grows 51 acres of onions. He donates excess onions that would otherwise go to waste to a food rescue organization and gets a reimbursement for his efforts.
Sometimes Mother Nature and hard work come together to produce a bountiful harvest on the farm. But what if the grocery store, distributor, or processor that the farmer sells to can’t handle any excess? Or, what if a percentage of the crop turns out too big, too small, or oddly shaped and no one will buy it? Organizations across the country are working with farmers to get this wholesome produce to people who need it.
Many farms may want to donate directly to a food bank, but are discouraged because they currently can’t claim a tax deduction for the donations. To help farms offset the costs of the labor required to harvest the crop and the packaging to transport it, many food banks and food recovery groups are able to assist the farmer with the “pick and pack out” (PPO) cost. The PPO cost can be very beneficial to a farmer. Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski farms in Goshen, New York, donates his nutritious-but-undersized onions to City Harvest. City Harvest is a food rescue organization in New York City that has been connecting good, surplus food with hungry New Yorkers since 1982. The PPO cost that is paid to Pawelski by City Harvest in some years was the determining factor in keeping his farm from losing money. Read more »
Have questions about items in your refrigerator or pantry? USDA has a new app that can help.
How many times have you gone into your pantry or refrigerator, only to find that what you were going to use in your meal was spoiled? The USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute would like to help you avoid that problem in the future with our new application, the FoodKeeper.
Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because home cooks are not sure of the quality or safety of items. USDA estimates that 21% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. In total, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month at the retail and consumer levels! Read more »
City Harvest rescues excess food using a fleet of 19 refrigerated trucks, three cargo bikes, over 150 full-time employees, and more than 8,000 volunteers. In fiscal year 2015, they will collect 50 million pounds of food, greater than the total amount of food collected in its first 14 years combined. Seventy-five percent of this total will be comprised of nutrient dense foods, including fresh produce, meat and dairy. Photo courtesy of City Harvest.
Beginning in August, food banks across the country competed to see who could sign up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. From among the 200 food banks in the Feeding America network, the champion is City Harvest in New York City, which won by signing up 114 donors to the Challenge. City Harvest will have a private meeting with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and will be awarded six suite tickets to attend either an NBA or NHL game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The tickets were donated by Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE), owner of the Washington Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and Verizon Center. Since 2011, MSE has recovered and donated 7,377 pounds of wholesome unsold food from its events to D.C. Central Kitchen, which translates to approximately 5,600 meals.
“We appreciate City Harvest’s longstanding commitment to food rescue and congratulate them for signing up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste. Organizations like City Harvest get this food to people who need it while reducing the amount of food that ends up in our country’s landfills.” Read more »
Researchers at USDA Agricultural Research Service help reduce food waste by developing new ways to extend food shelf life and by creating new food products, biobased plastics, and animal feed from food waste. USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus.
Less than 2 years ago, the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, with the goal of reducing food waste in the United States. We set an ambitious goal of having at least 400 businesses, schools, and/or organizations join the challenge by letting us know what they are doing to reduce food waste in their operations. USDA also committed to finding ways in which its 33 agencies and offices could help reduce food waste through policy, partnerships, and research.
As of today, we have surpassed our membership goal by signing up 1,313 participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.
The number and diversity of participants joining the challenge are indicative of a growing movement to reduce food waste that is spreading across the country. Read more »
When you prepare to welcome family and friends this holiday season, good planning can help avoid wasting food and save you money.
November and December are traditionally times of celebration of various holidays in America, religious and secular. This is a time for enjoyment and fellowship in the company of family, friends, and neighbors. The celebrations almost always include gathering at dinner tables over feasts of the bounty our farmers provide.
Unfortunately, this is also a time when, after the celebration and feasting are done, a significant proportion of the leftover edible food is tossed in the trashcan or put down the disposal. Much of this food ultimately ends up in landfills.
The Economic Research Service estimates that over 130 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten per year at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, equating to over 1,200 calories per day per man, woman, and child. On average, this suggests that as a nation almost one-third of the edible food that could meet our caloric needs goes uneaten. Read more »