Wyden, Merkley Join Effort to Reduce Food Waste

Washington, D.C. – In response to the staggering amount of food wasted in the United States every year, Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., to introduce comprehensive legislation to reduce food waste in stores and restaurants, at schools and institutions, on farms, and in American homes.

Forty percent of food across the food supply system in the United States is never eaten— damaging the environment, costing consumers money, and wasting an opportunity to reduce hunger. The Food Recovery Act – which has been introduced by U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, in the House of Representatives – will address food waste across the food supply chain.

“This bill will aid the farmers, schools and groups in Oregon and across the country already working to put perfectly good food onto the plates of hungry Americans and keep it out of landfills,” Wyden said. “By reversing the notion that “ugly” fruits and vegetables are inedible, and by clarifying expiration date labels so they make sense, my colleagues and I are working to reduce food waste and hunger at the same time.”  

“With millions of Americans at risk of going hungry every day, it is sad and counterproductive that 40% of our food ends up in landfills,” Merkley said. “There is much more we can do to set common-sense standards for use-by dates and to ensure that good food that would otherwise go to waste ends up in the hands of organizations that can get that food to those who need it most.”

Wyden also successfully included an amendment in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide assistance to “gleaners” who collect food from cafeterias and restaurants and send it to food banks and soup kitchens. Because of Wyden’s efforts, “gleaners” are now eligible for up to $9 million in grant funding for fiscal year 2015 and each fiscal year thereafter under the Community Food Projects section of the Farm Bill. Gleaners are defined as an entity that “collects edible, surplus food that would be thrown away and distributes the food to agencies or nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry.”

The Food Recovery Act will:

  • Reduce food waste at the consumer level through the inclusion of the Food Date Labeling Act to standardize confusing food date labels
  • Reduce food wasted in schools by encouraging cafeteria’s to purchase lower-price “ugly” fruits and vegetables, and by expanding grant programs that educate students about food waste and recovery
  • Reduce wasted food throughout the federal government through the creation of an Office of Food Recovery to coordinate federal efforts, and by requiring companies that contract with the federal government to donate surplus food to organizations such as food banks and soup kitchens
  • Reduce wasted food going to landfills by encouraging composting as a conservation practice eligible for support under USDA’s conservation programs
  • Reduce wasted food through research by directing the USDA to develop new technologies to increase the shelf life of fresh food, and by requiring the USDA to establish a standard for how to estimate the amount of wasted food at the farm level

The legislation is supported by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Natural Resources Defense Council, United Technologies Corporation, the World Wildlife Fund, and Feeding America.