By 2050, it is estimated that the Earth’s population will top 9 billion. This growing population will undeniably stress our food systems, natural resources, and ecosystems.
But consider this: Currently, we waste up to 40% of our food globally. In the United States, this equals roughly 400 pounds annually for every American. Meanwhile, one in seven Americans are food insecure.
These stunning facts—partnered with seeing waste occur firsthand through operating our farm and the restaurants and grocery stores it services—really brought this issue home for us. This prompted us as philanthropists and a family concerned about healthy communities and ecological sustainability to ask our team to explore the topic of wasted food.
Through our family foundation, we have been focused on solving large-scale environmental issues with market-based solutions since 2001. We started by looking at how funding solutions to climate change, both through grants and impact investments, can play an important role in transitioning our society to a low-carbon economy.
Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen how climate change and resource utilization are closely linked, and food is one of the most important resources in that equation. This puts food waste squarely at the center of many global challenges.
Reducing food waste would have a game-changing impact on natural resources depletion and degradation, food insecurity, national security, and climate change. As one of the largest economies and agricultural producers in the world, we believe the United States has a major role to play in setting an example and contributing to significant food waste reduction.
Last year, we approached like-minded philanthropists to join us in launching ReFED: “Rethinking Food Waste through Economics and Data: A Roadmap to Reduce Food Waste” to map a path for action and solutions. We knew from the start that a multi-stakeholder approach was needed so we invited leading food businesses, environmental and hunger organizations, investors, policymakers, and innovators to join the effort.
The economic analysis and research we undertook revealed exciting news: Food waste is a solvable problem. But four priority actions are needed to reach significant reductions:
1. We must galvanize hundreds of millions of dollars of new catalytic funding.
2. Policymakers must make pragmatic changes to tax incentives, safety regulations, and permitting procedures to support healthy market solutions.
3. America must unleash its spirit of innovation to develop new technology and businessmodel innovations.
4. A sweeping education and awareness campaign is needed to change behavior both among consumers and employees of food businesses.
This Roadmap report is a guide and a call to action for us to work together to solve this problem. Businesses can save money for themselves and their customers. Policymakers can unleash a new wave of local job creation. Foundations can take a major step in addressing environmental issues and hunger. And innovators across all sectors can launch new products, services, and business models. There will be no losers, only winners, as food finds its way to its highest and best use.
The Roadmap is just the beginning. In order to succeed, we need to crowdsource even more information and solutions. ReFED has welcomed input at every stage and encourages input now. After reading the Roadmap, we encourage you to visit refed.com, dig deeper into our analysis, and send us your ideas and feedback.
This is a defining moment for us all. Let’s start the journey now.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Fink is President of the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation. In 2005, she established Millstone Farm in Wilton, Connecticut, a working farm which serves as an educational outreach hub, supporting other farmers, community organizations, school groups and restaurateurs who are interested in learning more about the practice of sustainable agriculture.