Commercial and Anti-Hunger Sector Views on Local Government Strategies for Helping to Manage Food Waste
In the United States, 40% of all food intended for human consumption is lost or wasted. This has economic, environmental, and social consequences and equity concerns that justify the involvement of local governments. In addition, local governments are well positioned to support the systems-level innovations and systems- and equity-oriented approaches necessary for bringing together various sectors to tackle food waste issues. However, little is known about how food-generating businesses and anti-hunger agencies think local governments and public agencies could work with them to address food waste through source reduction (i.e., prevention) and feeding hungry people. These are the top two methods for waste reduction as outlined in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. Using qualitative interviews, this study presents the key challenges and facilitators of multiple Seattle-based anti-hunger agencies (n=8) and food-generating businesses (n=12) to addressing food waste prevention, recovery, and composting. This study also addresses how anti-hunger agencies and food-generating businesses interrelate within and between the two sectors. Interviewees also provided sector views on the potential roles of local government in this space. Strategies recommended for local governments included:
- committing resources that enable a systems approach. This can be accomplished by dedicating a staff or office to food waste issues, designating funding that is specific to food waste, incorporating equity and inclusivity, and serving as a convener of stakeholders;
- helping to standardize metrics and normalize waste audits. These practices are essential for understanding and scaling work within and between sectors, for measuring progress toward goals or fluctuations in the system, and for identifying priorities; and
- supporting the optimal operation of the emergency food system by helping improve infrastructure and efficiency.
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