At a "food rescue facility" in New York on Wednesday, USDA and EPA officials announced a progressive goal to limit food waste in the U.S., pledging to pare it down by 50% before 2030.
Food loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31% -- or 133 billion pounds – of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change, the agencies said.
As part of the effort to limit waste, the government is partnering with local governments and the private sector on projects that is expected to improve overall food security and natural resource preservation.
The announcement comes as the United Nations General Assembly gathers next week in New York to discuss sustainable production and consumption.
"The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, noting that an average family of four leaves more than two million calories uneaten each year. That's worth nearly $1500, he said.
"Our new reduction goal demonstrates America's leadership on a global level in in getting wholesome food to people who need it, protecting our natural resources, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste."
EPA Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg joined Vilsack in the announcement.
According to USDA, food loss and waste is single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions.
Experts also have projected that reducing food losses by just 15% would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, USDA said.
New projects join Food Waste Challenge
The government already has dipped its toe in the food loss reduction waters, creating the U.S. Food Waste Challenge in 2013, an app to help consumers safely store food and understand food date labels, new guidance to manufacturers on donating misbranded or sub-spec foods, and research on tech to make reducing food loss cost-effective.
By the end of 2014, the U.S. Food Waste Challenge had over 4,000 active participants, well surpassing its initial goal of reaching 1,000 participants by 2020.
In addition to revealing its new goal, USDA on Wednesday unveiled a new consumer education campaign through its Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
The campaign focuses on informing consumers about food loss and waste facts and reduction tips. A new section on ChooseMyPlate.gov also will educate consumers about reducing food waste to help stretch household budgets.
Working with the private sector, USDA said it would encourage food service companies, institutions, restaurants, grocery stores, and more to set their own goals for reducing food loss and waste.
Organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, which recently approved a new resolution to halve food waste within the operations of its 400 retailer and manufacturers members by 2025, are helping to lead the way.