By: Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO, Food Marketing Institute
Leslie Sarasin Talks Food Waste Reduction at City Harvest Event with USDA and EPA

FMI participated in the September 16th announcement by USDA Secretary Vilsack and Acting Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg of the goal to reduce our nation’s food waste by 50 percent by 2030.  FMI, as a founding member of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, was invited to present the food industry voice in this public-private partnership announcement. The event was hosted by City Harvest in New York City and Feeding America’s Bill Thomas also participated in the announcement. 

The industry committed to work with government and the private sector to help achieve the goal of reducing food waste in the United States by 50 percent over the next 15 years.

My remarks at this event emphasized that the food retail industry takes the issue of food waste seriously and approaches it very pragmatically. I shared our commitment, along with that of our partners, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association, to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA). In collaborating with Feeding America and a host of others, FWRA offers valuable networking opportunities with solution providers and produces workable resources, such as best practices in reducing food waste, that offer reality based applications and guidance to the various aspects of our food production system. 

Clearly each industry group – food producers, food retailers and restaurants – has its own set of unique food waste challenges and each must clarify its own set of remedies, solutions and improvements. But it proves very fruitful for us to work together in seeking to eliminate our weaknesses and enhance our strengths. As a case in point, I shared with the audience that one of the primary food recovery programs for food retailers focuses on donations to food banks and provided statistics pointing to progress we’ve achieved in that area.  

In 2006, food retailers donated 140 million pounds of food to food banks. While impressive, through improved collaborations with our friends at Feeding America, this past year, grocers donated more than 1.4 billion pounds of food. That’s a dramatic improvement, but there still remains room for growth, so FMI remain firmly committed to our Alliance’s goals to divert food waste from landfills by 1) Reducing the amount of food waste generated, 2) Repurposing through increased donations, and 3) Recycling food waste that can’t be avoided. 

Through FMI’s work with our Alliance partners, we were proud to participate as one of the original members supporting the USDA/EPA Food Waste Challenge when it was launched in 2013. 

As these groups take the next step – articulated in Wednesday’s  announcement of a nationwide 50 percent food waste reduction by 2030 – FMI and the Food Waste Reduction Alliance is pleased to continue the journey as part of the government, industry and private sector collaboration working together on solutions to the problem of food waste.