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The Biden administration has taken a significant step forward in addressing a critical issue that affects both the environment and the economy: food waste. By issuing the first national strategy to combat food waste, the administration aims to create a holistic approach to reduce waste through behavioral changes in both businesses and individuals, fund research to extend the shelf life of perishable foods, expand food donations and transform food waste into valuable commodities such as compost, gas or animal feed. This strategy holds immense potential for improving the U.S. food supply, benefiting both the short and long term.

Food waste in the United States is a pervasive problem, with approximately 30-40% of the food supply going uneaten. This not only results in economic losses, but also contributes significantly to environmental degradation. Landfills today are brimming with food waste produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, while the resources used to produce the wasted food — water, energy and labor — are also squandered. Retail dietitians and health and wellness professionals play a crucial role in reducing food waste by communicating its importance to both internal stakeholders and external consumers.

Key components of the national strategy

A major focus of the national strategy is changing the behavior of both businesses and individuals to reduce food waste. For businesses, this includes adopting more efficient inventory management practices, improving forecasting and enhancing supply chain logistics to minimize surplus. On the individual level, the strategy encourages consumers to plan meals better, store food properly and understand food labeling to reduce confusion about expiration dates.

The strategy emphasizes funding research to extend the shelf life of perishable foods. This involves investing in new technologies and methods that can keep food fresh for longer periods, thereby reducing spoilage. Apeel Sciences has been at the forefront of this initiative for years. Such innovations could revolutionize the food industry by making it possible to transport and store food more effectively.

Increasing food donations is another critical element of the strategy. By connecting food producers, retailers and food banks more efficiently, the Biden administration aims to ensure that surplus food reaches those in need rather than ending up in landfills. This not only helps to alleviate hunger, but also makes better use of existing food resources.

Transforming food waste into usable commodities like compost, biogas or animal feed is a forward-thinking approach that aligns with circular economy principles. By recycling food waste, the strategy reduces landfill use, decreases greenhouse gas emissions and creates valuable products that can benefit agriculture and energy production.

Role of health professionals

Goal #1: Internal communication to stakeholders

Retail dietitians and health and wellness professionals play a crucial role in communicating this strategy to stakeholders within their retail and CPG organizations. You need to articulate the importance of reducing food waste and demonstrate how it aligns with the company’s sustainability goals. This can be achieved through internal meetings, training sessions and regular updates on progress and best practices. Clear communication helps ensure that everyone from top management to frontline employees understands their role in this initiative.

Goal #2: Communicating to consumers

Educating consumers about this new and important strategy is a must, and encouraging them to adopt waste-reducing behaviors is equally important. Retail dietitians can use various platforms, such as in-store displays, social media and community workshops, to share practical tips on meal planning, food storage and understanding food labels. Health and wellness professionals can also incorporate these messages into their consultations, helping consumers and clients make more informed decisions about food consumption and waste.

Benefits of the initiative

In the short term, the strategy promises several benefits:

  1. Economic savings: Both businesses and consumers can save money by reducing food waste. For businesses, this means lower disposal costs and more efficient use of resources. Consumers can benefit from spending less on groceries by making better use of what they buy.
  1. Increased food security: By expanding food donations, the strategy helps to provide food for those in need, addressing food insecurity and hunger in communities across the country.
  1. Environmental impact: Immediate reductions in food waste translate to lower greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, contributing to efforts to combat climate change.

The long-term benefits of the national strategy are even more profound:

  1. Sustainable food systems: By fostering sustainable practices, the Biden strategy helps create a more resilient food system capable of adapting to future challenges, such as population growth and climate change.
  1. Innovation and growth: Investing in research and development to extend the shelf life of food can lead to new technologies and business opportunities, driving economic growth and job creation in the food and agriculture sectors.
  1. Cultural shift: Over time, the strategy can help cultivate a culture of sustainability, where reducing food waste becomes a norm rather than an exception. This cultural shift can have lasting impacts on how society views and interacts with food.

I must applaud the Biden administration’s national strategy to combat food waste! This represents a comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to a pervasive issue that has been debated and discussed for decades with few initiatives of this scope to support it. By addressing the problem through behavioral changes, research and development, expanded food donations and the transformation of waste into valuable commodities, the strategy offers a multifaceted solution with significant benefits.

Retail dietitians and health and wellness professionals have a vital role to play in communicating this strategy to both internal stakeholders and consumers, ensuring its successful implementation. By all of us in the food universe embracing and promoting this strategy, our country can make significant strides in reducing food waste and securing a healthier, more sustainable future for us all.

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