Essay by Trish Bendix: “Between 30 and 40 percent of the US food supply goes to waste each year. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 80 billion pounds of food end up in landfills annually. This figure takes on a greater significance in the context of another food crisis: food insecurity. More than 10 percent of US households are food insecure, and the nonprofit Feeding America reports that this number will increase due to the economic and unemployment consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The food waste crisis is not new. Wasted, a 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, recorded Americans’ annual food waste at 40 percent. Horrified by the report’s findings, Leah Lizarondo, a food and health advocate who began her career working in consumer-packaged goods and technology, was inspired to find a solution.
“I tried to figure out why this inefficiency was happening—where the failing was in the supply chain,” Lizarondo says. She knew that consumer-facing businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants were the second-biggest culprits of food waste—behind American households. And even though these businesses didn’t intend to waste food, they lacked the logistics, structures, or incentives to redirect the food surplus to people experiencing food insecurity. Furthermore, because most wasted food is perishable, traditional waste methods didn’t work within the food-banking structure.
“It was so cheap to just throw food in a landfill,” Lizarondo comments. “There’s no legislation [in the United States] that prevents us from doing that, unlike other countries.” For example, France banned food waste in 2016, while Norway has stores that sell food past their sell-by dates, and Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have adopted their own regulations, including the latter charging a fee to citizens for each pound of food waste. Currently, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont are the only US states with legislation enforcing organic waste bans.
In 2016, Lizarondo launched the nonprofit Food Rescue Hero, a technology platform that redirects food waste to the food insecure in cities across America.
Since its launch, Food Rescue Hero has given more than 68 million pounds of food to people in need. Currently, it operates in 12 cities in the United States and Canada, with more than 22,000 drivers volunteering their time….(More)”.