Photo Credit: Taz (CC-By-2.0)

In the United States, 40 percent of food is lost or wasted somewhere along the food supply chain. Billions of pounds of food end up in landfills or down the drain, and much of it was safe for consumption before it was thrown away. It has been a goal of mine to reduce food waste and combat hunger.

To achieve this important goal, my Democrat colleague from Maine, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and I co-founded the Congressional Food Waste Caucus in April. Together, we have been working to decrease the amount of food wasted in schools, homes, on farms, in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, and everywhere in between.

At the end of July, I had the opportunity to see first-hand how one program in Des Moines helps to provide a link between reducing food waste and getting food to those who are hungry and in need. Eat Greater Des Moines is a central Iowa-based organization focusing on strengthening the area’s food system and supporting the entire food life cycle in Iowa. On July 30, I joined them in their mission to see how they are delivering food to those who need it. By getting word out about the crucial issue of food waste, I hope others emulate the efforts of organizations like Eat Greater Des Moines.

Last month, Representative Pingree and I also hosted a Food Waste Caucus staff briefing exploring how to feed those in need, save money for consumers and businesses, and preserve natural resources. Among the many issues discussed, the role of the federal government was at the forefront. I would like the federal government to be helpful in reducing food waste and not slow down innovation and progress made by states, local governments, non-profits, individuals, and private entities. Those present agreed we need a cultural change and a different mindset about how we use food to truly invoke progress. 

Since the creation of the Food Waste Caucus, Representative Pingree and I have been working to bring together those who work on reducing food waste every day. We held a roundtable discussion with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue which brought together policy makers with food banks, producers, restaurants, nonprofits, and other organizations to share what can be done to reduce food waste. The group discussed programs throughout the country, potential collaborations, and how the federal government can be helpful and facilitate such progress.

In June, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, commonly known as the Farm Bill, passed the House. Included in this bill was the creation of a Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison at the Department of Agriculture. The liaison is responsible for coordinating federal projects and goals aimed at reducing food waste and educating the public about efforts to reduce food waste.

As a co-founder of the Food Waste Caucus, I will continue to look at ways to promote food waste reduction across the food supply chain and combat hunger. We have the potential to make sure no one in this country goes to bed hungry and by effectively managing our food supply, we can get food to those who need it most.

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