Forty percent of food grown in the United States is thrown away. Food waste is a huge concern at every part of the food chain, from crops being left in the field to rot when farmers can’t find enough labor, to imperfect produce being rejected at the grocery store, to uneaten food going into the garbage can at home. In the last few years, with education efforts around ugly produce and other topics, America is just beginning to wake up to the massive drain on both capital and natural resources that comes with wasted food.
At AeroFarms, we have built the way we grow and the way we run our business to bring our waste to virtually zero. Our uniform and predictable harvests, achieved through the precision of our growing system and extensive data collection, mean that our baby greens always live up to grocer and consumer expectations. Furthermore, we build farms on major distribution channels so that our greens get to the grocery store just hours after harvest – giving them longer shelf life for the consumer. But the food system at large, both perishable and shelf-stable needs change and commitment from regulatory bodies and consumers too, to make a real impact on food waste.
On May 25, 2016, experts in food waste from food banks, environmental groups, industry organizations and a few celebrity chefs headed to Washington to testify before the House Agriculture Committee and to meet with individual representatives.
Among the panel testifying before Congress was AeroFarms partner Jesse Fink, Co-Founder of MissionPoint Capital Partners – an impact investing firm in Norwalk, CT. Co-founder of airline ticket discount platform Priceline.com, Mr. Fink calls the airline seats he sold a “perishable product,” much like the food he is seeking to save. In addition to being a mission-driven investor, Mr. Fink is trustee of ReFed – a collective of food waste concerned businesses, non-profits and academics working to drastically reduce food waste through research, lobbying and promotion of new technologies.
ReFed recently released a plan to reduce food waste by 20% – a good start to the EPA’s goal of a 50% food waste reduction by 2030.
Main issues addressed at the hearing were issues of “Best by” and and “Use by” dates and related liability issues regarding food donation, challenges to perishable food donation in rural areas, and innovation in the food waste recovery space.
Said Mr. Fink in the hearing, “In a resource endowed country like ours we should be able to conquer hunger, conserve fresh water and create new jobs through new food waste innovations.”
John Oxford, a farmer himself and Chairman elect for the Produce Marketing Association laid out the stakes for the committee, “When fresh produce goes to waste we lose the fruits or vegetable as well as the inputs – labor, energy, water and fertilizer and if the product has been cooled and transported, we lose even more.
According to the panel, solutions feasible today could double donations to charitable organizations like Feeding America, the Chief Executive Officer of which was also on the panel.
Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, told the committee that food is the #1 product entering our landfills. She went on to say “We have not always been so wasteful. The US wastes 50% more food per capita than in the 1970s.”
Gunders testified that one quarter of the food demand created by population growth by 2050 could be met by addressing food waste.
Also in Washington meeting with lawmakers were Chef Tom Colicchio and Chef Steven Satterfield.
Watch the Full testimony on C-SPAN here.
Read more about the food waste lobbying trip to Washington here:
Celebrity Chefs Hope to Press Congress on Food Waste – New York Times
New Crop of Companies Reaping Profits From Wasted Food – New York Times