Thinking about Policy on Food Waste: From France to the U.S.

What should be the policy in reorganizing how cities handle food waste?

The US wastes about 34 million tons food a year. Food waste is a sizable chunk of the overall waste be produce. Meanwhile millions of americans and people that live in America are hungry. Their wages are unable to keep up with the rising rate of living and because of this, even working class people have trouble getting food. Beyond the homeless, the obvious and primary beneficiaries of such a policy, are the working class and student population of America who have struggles accessing food. a proper, thought out system can reduce food waste, recycle food, increase compost, feed students, children, the poor and the homeless. Generationally- new policy on handling food waste would help humans to rethink consumption, waste and sharing. New behaviors that could benefit the environment, create new industries and jobs, and restructure pieces of welfare system.

So what is the answer?

What are the first steps, actions to be taken and things to be considered in making this idea a real policy. the first would be collaboration and cooperation between institutions, private business’ and the non profit sector. the first two entities obviously provide the food and would be responsible for accounting for, selling at discount or, giving away food. the food would then be picked up by organizations like No Kids Hungry, MOFAD, City Harvest, WITS and many others in NYC. They’d inspect, package, and redistribute the food to those in need. In similar ways that they’d do any food drive, food kitchens, shelters etc. Universities can self operate this entire process as they can sell at discount food to be wasted to their student body, contacting via school email and text alerts for drives and pop up discount markets. Supermarkets and restaurants can get involved in this same way. For example, restaurants on city record that participate in Restaurant Week and other food events could be required to participate. In France, supermarkets risk an almost $5k fine for not recycling food waste responsibly. In Denmark, discount markets are popular trend and feed the otherwise low income working and student class.

For this collaboration to happen, private businesses would need to be incentivized — like France’s tax. I’d like to think there are more creative ways to make it worth the private sector’s while. Public institutions like schools and colleges would need support and participation from the community they serve. This means conversations and voting at PTA meetings, student organization, local and state govt mandates (like Obama’s Rise to the Top program). Non profits would surge in tax breaks and labor force, as demand would increase to redistribute the to be wasted foods. Jobs for drivers, packers, servers, inspectors of food…this would strengthen ties between non profs and the community it serves.

What of the issue of what is waste and what should be wasted?

In conjunction with health boards, committees and organizations — a set of regulations and inspections would be enacted to ensure only food that is edible be distributed and consumed before it perishes or expires. Non perishables will be stored, meats and diaries would be given priority in distribution. Food waste can be defined as anything still edible that can be (re)heated, cooled, and stored for at least. I only say a week as this can create a schedule and routine to pick up or redistribute this food, some can be stored longer, and maybe depending on the product stored for less?

Fair warning this is not a policy that can be half assed half thought out and worse yet, underfunded, like Bush’s No Child Left Behind. After a year of France making this law, their biggest obstacle is underfunding. Transporting food, keeping food fresh and cool, and even the definition of what food waste plagues the ultimate ability of this policy to make substantial effects. I think in negotiating better funding from whatever sources, its highlighted how much money will be saved/made in tax incentives, selling food, creating jobs, saving materials and more.

Like all real change, it starts with us. As we move policy forward to a more conscious and aware existence — the more naturally our behavior molds with it. We order too much food, cook too much, buy what we dont need. This overconsumption exists in all facets of out culture. Only then can real permanent change occur. We cannot forget that the most important thing is to take that first step. While many in France are still working on this policy, it has made a difference. We cant forget that we are all capable of such. Just need to take that first step. The power is always yours. Don’t waste it.