Comprehensive legislation attacks food waste in schools, restaurants, stores and farms
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced today that she will be introducing comprehensive legislation this fall to attack the problem of wasted food.
"About 40% of the food in the U.S. is wasted. That costs us money, is bad for the environment, and means people are going hungry when perfectly good food is ending up in a landfill," Pingree said.
Pingree says she will be introducing a bill that will address wasted food at four levels—
in stores and restaurants,
in institutions like schools,
at the consumer level, and
on the farm.
At the consumer level, Pingree says one of the provisions of the bill will seek to reform the way "sell by" or "best by" dates are used on products.
"A lot of people mistakenly think there is some sort of government standard for ‘best by’ dates and that you have to throw out food once the date has passed," Pingree said. "The truth is that it’s the manufacturer who comes up with those dates and much of the time the food is perfectly safe to eat well after the date has passed."
Video from Congresswoman Pingree's announcement at the NYT Food for Tomorrow Conference
Pingree says one provision she is considering is a requirement that manufacturers print a disclaimer below the sell-by date, stating that it's only a recommendation and the food can still be safe to eat after that date.
Pingree's bill would also contain provisions to:
fund ad campaigns to educate consumers about food waste,
tax credits to make it easier for farmers and retailers to donate "ugly" or non-standard products, and
reforms of procurement policies for school lunch programs to help them buy those kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Fifty million Americans are food insecure, and Pingree says reducing food waste could make a big difference to them.
"If we reduce food waste by just 15%, we would be able to adequately feed 25 million hungry Americans," Pingree said.
In 2011, Pingree introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act—a comprehensive bill to make local food more accessible. The bill contained several dozen provisions and most of those proposals were later incorporated into the Farm Bill, passed by Congress and signed by the President last year.
Pingree announced the bill today at the New York Times' Food for Tomorrow conference in Pocantico, NY.