It’s been about two years since I first zeroed in on the food waste reduction movement (FWRM). [Quasi-pun intended: I think near-zero food waste is an attainable goal.] In just the two years I’ve been watching I’ve seen a groundswell of support from individuals, nonprofits, industry, and policymakers whose efforts can really make a difference.
One obstacle to donating leftover food has been concern about liability. But with increasing social and environmental pressures, governments at all levels have been revising rules and regulations so as to encourage donations. In September 2017 the California state legislature tackled liability and product expiration dates. The unconscionable waste in school districts has spurred action in Los Angeles and Queens, New York, by state senators Ed Hernandez and Joseph Addabbo, respectively. Tax incentives also help.
There’s the inspirational startup story of Komal Ahmad of Copia (formerly Feeding Forward). In 2015 Ahmad told the New York Daily News that hunger “is literally the world’s dumbest problem” — the facts about food waste explain why. Mobile apps used by groups such as Copia and Food Rescue US promptly connect companies, event planners, and others with fresh, excess food to hunger relief organizations. The Food Recovery Network (FRN) recruits students across the country to lead food recovery and distribution programs on college campuses. FRN is currently 230 chapters strong and has recovered more than two million pounds of food since 2011.
The challenges relate to donor-recipient matching, perishability, and distribution. The solutions revolve around on-demand apps, algorithms, predictive technology, real-time mapping, and other nifty tech marvels yet to be invented. Shout-outs to Food Cowboy, Gebni, Replate, LeanPath, MintScraps, Spoiler Alert, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine — these are a small sample of other FWRM participants, including for-profit ventures, whom I cheer for their efforts to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and help make zero food waste a reality. And wait, there’s more in the pipeline—this is exciting!