4- Educate and Activate Consumers
The largest amount of FLW in the US occurs at the household level (37%). Waste reduction efforts must empower residents to change their behaviors everywhere that they eat. Recent polling confirms that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe food waste is a critical issue, which over 80% of respondents said they are taking steps to address at home. Yet American household food waste per capita is not declining fast enough, and more must be done to educate consumers on the steps they can take to reduce their waste at home. Coordinating these campaigns with key interventions that businesses can implement can also drive consumers towards better food management and reduce GHG emissions by 34 MMTCO2e annually.
Fund Research and Awareness Campaigns to Reduce Consumer Food Waste
(Congress, USDA, EPA, FDA)
Congress should fund $3 million annually through 2030—with $1 million for research into effective consumer food waste reduction strategies and $2 million into consumer-facing behavior change campaigns. The UK, South Korea, and others have demonstrated that coordinated public campaigns to educate consumers on food waste reduction strategies can provide straightforward savings to government agencies, businesses, and consumers. Policymakers can leverage existing national ad campaigns like NRDC’s Save The Food, social marketing campaigns like the US EPA’s Food Too Good To Waste, consumer education provided by FDA through web resources and consumer education animated shorts, as well as sector toolkits (developed by WWF for restaurants, hotels, hospitality, and schools) to build uniﬁed campaigns to drive awareness and action. Additional research is needed to determine which household activities have the biggest impact in reducing household food waste. Congress should fund household food waste reduction research in alignment with the recommendations from the National Academies of Science’s recent report: A National Strategy to Reduce Food Waste at the Consumer Level. The USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison, in coordination with EPA, FDA, and across USDA agencies, should ultimately oversee these efforts.
Pass the School Food Recovery Act
The bipartisan School Food Recovery Act introduced by Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington) in the 116th Congress would direct the USDA to provide funding for schools to engage in FLW efforts—enlisting teachers and students to turn cafeterias into classrooms by measuring and reducing their waste, publicly aggregating and reporting waste data, and driving greater awareness of FLW solutions across our communities. This model has already been piloted and studied through WWF’s “Food Waste Warrior” and NRDC’s “True Food, No Waste” programs. These programs have demonstrated the possibilities in decreasing student plate waste, increasing students’ fruit and vegetable consumption, and cutting down on cafeteria plastic and packaging waste.