A Qualitative Study of U.S. Food Waste Programs and Activities at the State and Local Level
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In the United States, 40 percent of all food intended for human consumption is lost or wasted. This has economic, environmental, and social consequences that justify the involvement of public agencies. Although there have been actions taken by public agencies across the country to address the issue of food waste, little is known about how public agencies are addressing this complex and multifaceted issue. To investigate current efforts of agencies at the state and local level, we conducted a qualitative study of the strategies, challenges, successes, and recommendations of agencies currently doing this work. Comparing the experiences of different agencies, we identify how a scarcity of organizational resources, a lack of dedicated personnel, inadequate metrics, dissimilar goals, and perceived conflicts with EPA recommendations contribute to difficulty in developing and implementing successful programs. We also explore how agencies have used existing metrics, activities, and resources along with a phased-in approach to overcome these barriers. Finally, we address how agencies view stakeholder engagement, cross-sector collaboration, improved metrics, education, comprehensive approaches, and improvements to food recovery as integral components that need to be addressed at a systems-level in order to make food waste prevention possible in a lasting and meaningful way. These findings can be used to inform agencies about strategies and best practices to be used to create effective and successful programs to reduce the burden of wasted food.
- Nutritional sciences