This morning, at the New York Time’s Food for Tomorrow conference, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine announced a new bill aimed at tackling food waste. She explained that in the US, 40% of all food is wasted, which averages about 20 pounds per person. At the same time, 50 million Americans do not have access to healthy food. Organic waste in landfills is creating so much methane gas that if food waste was a country it would be third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
The Congresswoman stressed the need for holistic reform that considers the myriad complex and nuanced problems borne from wasted food like hunger, malnutrition, and methane emissions. The bill is divided into four sections to target waste from consumers, farms, restaurants and institutions. Specific agenda items include a 25% tax credit for farmers who donate extra food to soup kitchens and pantries; redefining USDA’s grading standards to include “ugly” fruit; and, looking into expansion of the Good Samaritan Food Act to protect retailers from liability surrounding food donations.
The Congresswoman expressed frustration around the arbitrary way manufacturers place expiration dates on food and its impact on consumer behavior. Pingree suggested changing the language on food packaging to “manufactured suggested date” as one possible way to educate consumers that they can eat food past an expiration date, but she also requested other ideas.
A few times in her speech, Congresswoman Pingree acknowledged the tense atmosphere in this Congress. “Congress hasn’t fared too well in the conversation today, you might be skeptical. The bright note here is even in a highly partisan Congress there are ways to get things done.”
The Congresswoman promised to “work hard to get support from both sides of the isle, and look for opportunities to add on a piece here and a piece there in appropriation bills.”