Skip to content

Blumenthal, Schatz, Wyden, Merkley, Booker Introduce Comprehensive Legislation to Reduce Food Waste

Forty percent of food produced in America is never eaten—damaging the environment, costing consumers money, and wasting an opportunity to reduce hunger

[WASHINGTON, DC] – In response to the staggering amount of food wasted in the United States every year, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced 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-ME) in the House of Representatives – will address food waste across the food supply chain.

“Food is the single largest contributor to landfills today,” Blumenthal said. “And the sad truth is: much of this food is tossed when it is perfectly good to eat and safe to consume. Whether it is because a grocery store considers its produce ugly, a restaurant’s serving sizes are too large, or a consumer was confused by its date label, this wasted food damages our environment and our pocketbooks. And it is an affront in a country in which far too many of our citizens continue go to bed hungry every night. By diverting healthy food from landfills, this comprehensive legislation will help feed the hungry, protect the environment, and save consumers money.”

“Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that as much as 40 percent of the food we produce is thrown away,” said Schatz.  “While many families across the country struggle each day to put food on the table, we are tossing safe and edible food because of the way it looks or the way it’s labeled. Our bill takes commonsense steps to help end food waste, feed families, and ensure our environment and food supply remain sustainable.”

“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.”

 “It is unconscionable that while one in seven Americans struggle with hunger, so much edible food goes to waste every single day,” Booker said. “The economic, environmental,  and social costs of our country’s food waste problem touch nearly every community across the country. The Food Recovery Act will create innovative approaches for solving our country’s food waste crisis—from encouraging research and development efforts of new technologies to standardizing expiration date labels. Together we can and must establish a more efficient food system.” 

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.

“Senator Blumenthal’s Food Recovery Act takes a system-wide view of the 62 million tons of food wasted each year and creates opportunities for food waste reduction,” said Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. “There are tremendous financial, social, economic, and environmental benefits to this bill. In addressing food recovery on a national scale, there is opportunity to reduce hunger in food insecure communities as well as save a great deal of wasted financial resources that are thrown away. Senator Blumenthal’s bill takes a keen eye towards the food waste problems of today, and anticipates the food recovery solutions of the future. The Food and Law Policy Clinic fully supports the Food Recovery Act and applauds Senator Blumenthal’s effort in moving the nation towards less wasteful future.”

"The United Nations indicates that the world wastes more than one-third of the food produced each year, depriving food from those that need it most while contributing to water shortages and carbon emissions,” said John Mandyck, Chief Sustainability Officer for United Technologies Corp. and co-author of Food Foolish: The Hidden Connection Between Food Waste, Hunger and Climate Change. “If measured as a country, food waste would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. A new paradigm is required to waste less food so we can feed more people with big dividends for the environment.  We hope the Food Recovery Act will engage stakeholders and focus needed attention on solutions to prevent food loss and waste."

"Food production puts tremendous strain on the Earth's resources such as forests, oceans and grasslands as well as the biodiversity that shares our planet. The Food Recovery Act can help reduce those stresses by ensuring that the land, water and energy going into food production doesn’t go to waste,” said Pete Pearson, director of food waste at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “Senator Blumenthal’s legislation is right in line with WWF’s objectives -- incentivize food recovery and soil health, and inform consumers that food waste prevention is one of the most impactful acts of resource and ecosystem conservation. We have to recognize the massive impact food production has on our planet. While keeping wasted food out of landfills is critical, our goal should be prevention. There’s no sense filling landfills or compost piles with food that should have never been wasted if we were smart consumers.”

“Feeding America applauds Senator Blumenthal’s leadership in introducing The Food Recovery Act of 2016,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. “This legislation addresses the challenge of reducing food waste through a variety of investments, including addressing infrastructure challenges at food banks by making TEFAP storage and distribution funding mandatory, simplifying date labels across the food industry to reduce consumer confusion, and promoting investments in research and policy to encourage food donation. With 1 in 7 people in America struggling with food insecurity and more than 70 billion  pounds of recoverable food going to waste each year, this legislation is critically important.”

“This bill will keep good food from going to waste, while at the same time feeding hungry Americans,” said Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and author of the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook. “The more food we keep out of the trash, the more trashed money, water, energy, and climate pollution we can avoid. From farmers to parents, school children, and those in need—wasting less food helps everyone.”