Sustainable Management of Food

A Call to Action by Stakeholders: United States Food Loss & Waste 2030 Reduction Goal

The federal government, led by EPA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is seeking to work with communities, organizations and businesses along with our partners in state, tribal and local government to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent over the next 15 years. As an important stride in reaching the 2030 food reduction goal, EPA hosted the Food Recovery SummitExit where organizations across the food chain, from manufacturers to consumers, met to discuss the key challenges in reducing food loss and waste. Based on this summit and continued input, EPA, USDA and stakeholders from across the food chain have developed a collaborative Call to Action, which identifies current opportunities and challenges in reducing food loss and waste in the United States.

On this page:


The purposes of this Call to Action are to:

  1. collect and synthesis key opportunities and issues identified at the 2015 Food Recovery SummitExit and subsequent meetings,
  2. establish a cohesive list of actions available to businesses, organizations, governments, and general public to reduce food loss and waste, and
  3. inspire new innovations and actions from the stakeholder community to further progress towards the 2030 food loss and waste reduction goal.

EPA and USDA offer this Call to Action in order to highlight and share the assessments of outside experts and representatives of the food system about current opportunities and challenges. As stakeholders across the food supply chain voluntarily initiate actions to reduce food loss and waste, this Call to Action can help them identify opportunities and gaps. EPA and USDA are very interested in learning more about new actions and accomplishments that reflect the nation’s achievements, opportunities and ongoing challenges to reduce food loss and waste.

Stakeholders will determine their own actions or any other input and will not be limited by the content of this Call to Action. EPA’s and USDA’s role is to act as a convener, help facilitate discussion, provide leadership, and compile actions and conversations of individual companies, organizations and stakeholders. The federal government is not seeking consensus advice or recommendations from stakeholders through this Call to Action.

Top of Page

Key Activities Identified by Stakeholders

Participants at the 2015 Food Recovery SummitExitidentified the following key activities as the core of a successful strategy that would result in wide-scale and sustained reductions in food loss and waste.

  1. Seek Prevention Strategies and Use the Food Recovery Hierarchy: By focusing interventions on the prevention of wasted food and following the principles outlined in the Food Recovery Hierarchy, businesses, individuals and organizations can maximize economic gains while increasing social and environmental benefits
  2. Increase Public Awareness: Increase consumer and industry awareness of the scale of the food waste problem along with the environmental, social, and economic benefits of reducing wasted food. Furthering food stewardship, donation and waste reduction begins with education and outreach about the collective effects of food waste and providing replicable best practices.
  3. Improve the Data: Encourage companies and organizations in the private and public sectors to measure their contribution to food loss and waste and their associated reduction efforts. By collecting valid data, businesses can justify sustainable food management investments, tailor their reduction programs, and gain new insights on opportunities to prevent and reduce food loss and waste.
  4. Forge New Partnerships and Expand the Existing Ones: Leverage existing or create new partnerships to divert excess food to new and/or secondary markets and/or recover food waste that has historically been destined for disposal. When organizations collaborate they are able to share existing infrastructures, resources and expertise, which could help them efficiently restructure food management towards a more sustainable operation.
  5. Clarify Date Labels and Food Safety: Use clear terminology and phrasing to help consumers and secondary users make better decisions about discarding food. Date labeling, when clearly communicated, can be an effective tool to provide consumers with recommendations from a food manufacturer/producer about the viability or quality of a particular item. However, too often, date labels are ambiguous on what characteristic they are speaking to (e.g., quality or safety), leading consumers, food banks, and others to make an independent assessment on the viability of a product. Understandably, decisions are often made on the conservative side and items are discarded.
  6. Build Food Loss and Waste Infrastructures: Effectively divert excess food to new markets and recover wasted food by creating new options and incentives to individuals and companies. Increase investments to establish or expand new recovery and/or diversion operations and promote development of new technologies and innovation for food waste recovery. By supporting transportation and processing of excess food, communities can capitalize on the economic opportunities of a sustainable food management system while reducing the cost and environmental burdens associated with landfilling food waste.

Top of Page

Opportunities and Actions Identified by Stakeholders

Stakeholders across the supply chain, including participants at the 2015 Food Recovery SummitExit, have identified specific opportunities and actions across the food system to reduce FLW. This section divides the food system into focus areas (Production, Manufacturing, Retail/Food Service, Consumers and Donation, Recovery/Recycling, and Regulators/Policy Makers) and identifies opportunities and actions within each area.

In the tables below, opportunities are areas of action with high prospects for reducing food loss and waste. If these opportunities are realized through action, progress will be made in achieving the 2030 FLW reduction goal.

  • Key Stakeholders are those stakeholders that are particularly, though not exclusively, associated with a specific area of the food system.
  • Demonstrated Practices are ongoing or past interventions identified that have had success in reducing food waste.
  • Actions towards progress are suggestions from stakeholders, primarily from the Food Recovery SummitExit, and are incorporated into this document for reaction and additional comments.

Disclaimer of Endorsement: Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. The examples included in the following sections are for informational purposes only.


Key Stakeholders

  • Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Aquaculture
  • Plantations/Greenhouses
  • Community Gardens
  • Transporters
  • Retail (grocers, restaurants, vendors, etc.)

Opportunities Highlighted by Stakeholders

Feed people with wholesome, excess food and recovering/recycling inedible portions.

  • For crops that are not harvested, due to cost or other constraints, but are wholesome for human or animal consumption, explore partnerships and opportunities with secondary markets, feed operations, or non-profit/volunteer groups to reduce or eliminate cost, transport, and/or labor barriers.
  • For produce that is harvested/collected and safe to eat, but may not be marketable due to visual or size defects, develop strategies and infrastructure for utilization.
  • For produce, byproducts, and other food materials that are inedible or unsafe for human or animal consumption and on-site composting is unavailable, assess the potential to partner with commercial composters or anaerobic digesters.
  • For livestock and aquaculture operations, establish relationships with local growers as well as food manufacturers (e.g., breweries) and retailers (e.g., grocers, restaurants, vendors, cafeterias, food banks) to use wasted food, as allowed under federal and state law, as a feed stock.
  • For produce and meat products, work with downstream users (retailers, manufacturers, consumers/food banks) to determine if slight changes in processing or packaging can help increase utilization of a food product or lengthen its viability.

Demonstrated PracticesThe following links exit the site Exit

Demonstrated Practices in Production
  • CropMobster platform, which provides a digital marketplace to connect producers, retailers, local businesses, donation centers, and others. See: CropMobster example
  • Philadelphia’s University City District food recycling program donating compost to community gardens. See: Philabundance

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders in Production
  • Develop relationships with volunteer organizations to establish gleaning opportunities. See: USDA’s toolkit for suggestions and resources.
  • Connect communities of food producers, users, and recovery/recycling operations through mobile technologies.
  • Develop plans for off-spec produce (e.g., trimming, farmers markets) and explore donation opportunities.
  • Optimize distribution networks to reduce transportation and storage cost.
  • Work with downstream businesses to increase utilization and longevity of food products.
  • For animal feed operations, seek opportunities to use recovered/excess food.
  • For community gardens and growing operations, use locally produced compost.


Key Stakeholders

  • Food Manufacturers
  • Food Processors
  • Transporters

Opportunities Highlighted by Stakeholders

Decrease the amount of food waste due to known ambiguity in date labeling and assess current processes to determine areas for increased efficiency and recovery.

  • For manufacturing processes, refine standard procedures to avoid loss and seek to replicate efficiency practices. Create a new mindset to treat excess and off-spec food as a resource.
  • For final products, ensure clear labeling and packaging for preservation and longevity. Establish a “quality trumps quantity” ethos.
  • For unavoidable excess or off-spec products, establish donation networks for feeding people and animals.
  • For transportation and storage issues, seek out local options for excess food products (donation centers) and build supply chains, including local chains that optimize storage and reduce waste at every stage of the chain.
  • For outreach programs aimed at consumers, provide clear messaging around date labeling and leverage technology and communication platforms to enhance consumer knowledge about food preservation and safety.

Demonstrated PracticesThe following links exit the site Exit

In processing: In unavoidable excess or off spec products: In outreach
  • Change practices to make sure consecutive product runs are compatible with each other. See: Blended Pudding
  • Partner with local farms to create product from off spec produce and excess food from manufacturing process. See: Fruit Cycle example
  • Use manufacturing by-products first when developing new product ideas or seasonal items (fruit leather, beef jerky). See: Food Waste Reduction Alliance’s Best Practices Guide
  • Use technology to make food storage easier and avoid spoilage. See: FoodKeeper App
  • Food Waste Reduction Alliance convening an industry effort to address date labeling in April 2016.

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders

In products: In unavoidable excess or off-spec products: In outreach: Miscellaneous:
  • Work within the company and other manufacturers to ensure that labeling is clear when a printed product date relates to freshness/taste versus an actual, health and safety issue.
  • Assess viability of excess or off-spec food products.
  • Compile and share best practices.
  • In processing, conduct a waste audit to identify where the largest quantity of wasted food is coming from in your process.
  • Work with donation centersExit to ensure that the wholesome, nutritious food goes to feeding hungry people or work with local farms to ensure that the food can feed animals.
  • Produce or work with other companies to create outreach materials, such as apps that consumers can use in their home or while shopping to understand how to read and use date labels.
  • In transportation, assess buying practices and improve storage to avoid food loss before manufacture.
  • Create packaging that extends shelf life of products or preserves freshness longer (e.g. vacuum sealed meat).
  • Analyze and choose packaging to create less wasted food (e.g. Tetra Paks versus glass jars).

Retail/Food Services

Key Stakeholders

  • Grocers
  • Vendors
  • Restaurants
  • Cafeterias
  • Food Pantries/Food Banks
  • Transporters

Opportunities Highlighted by Stakeholders

Employ programs that build awareness to increase food donations and recovery, better track food inputs and outputs to optimize waste prevention and create efficient management practices, such as the following:

  • Capture excess food through expanded networks at the local and/or regional level (e.g., new local partners).
  • Improve donation practices by establishing clear guidelines and/or policies for employees.
  • Better track the scope and size of food waste generation by creating standard procedures for measurement.
  • Reduce operating costs associated with food waste by employing efficiency standards and performance standards to improve inventory and cold supply chain management.
  • Increase program viability by engaging customers through outreach and marketing campaigns.

Demonstrated PracticesThe following links exit the site Exit

Holistic Source Reduction Excess Food to People Feed to Animals Digestion and Composting of Scraps

ReFED developed a national economic study: Rethinking Food Waste through Economics and Data: A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent

Smart purchasing, staff training and other prep waste reduction controls. See: Sodexo example Establish and institutionalize donation protocols. See: Publix example; Starbucks example Work with local farms to sell or donate scraps/byproducts to animals. See: Spent grain to cows example Commercial/Institutional Collection Partnerships. See: College of Charleston example, Burtons Grill example

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and a large group of stakeholders has developed and will release an accounting and reporting standard for quantifying food and associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain on June 6, 2016.

Trayless dining, taste tests, portion size reduction and other incentives for plate waste reduction. See: University of Maine at Farmington example; Haskell Indians Nations University example

Utilize Peer-to-Peer matching software that links potential donators with food banks. See: MEANS Database example

Source separation and collection of food scraps. See: Pearl City High School example  

Waste audits/measurement and tracking. See: LeanPath, EPA’s Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging Toolkit

Offer haul-out service to catering or other off site service clients. See: Serendipity Catering example

Retain food recovery service to ensure donation of excess catered and other food. See: Convention example    
Require sustainable food management and closed loop systems in dining service requests for proposals. See: various universities and dining service providers   Utilize legal and policy tools to maximize food donations. See: Massachusetts' RecyclingWorks Comprehensive Donation Guidelines and Harvard's Food Law and Policy Clinic Fact Sheets    
Consumer/guest campaigns and other awareness raising activities. See: UC Davis Love Food example, I Value Food   Comprehensive Guidance for Food Recovery Programs from Conference for Food Protection    

Sports venues and concessionaires across the country are moving toward environmentally preferable food service to help build a healthier and more sustainable food program. Find resources on the Green Sports Alliance website.

  To learn more about new tax incentives for businesses that donate food (as of Dec. 2015), see Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic’s, University of Arkansas', and Food Recovery Project’s Tax Deduction for Food Donation: a legal guide (see Disclaimer of Endorsement statement above)    

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders in Retail/Food Services:
  • Provide successful model programs, example policies and guidelines to share with others in your sector.
  • Implement pilot programs and expand successful efforts.
  • Capture data on food donation levels, quantity of waste, and reasons for waste within retailer’s inventory management systems to better inform forecasting.
  • If contracting with a food service provider, include provisions to drive food recovery at every level of the hierarchy (e.g. inventory control from source reduction, excess food to people, etc.)
  • Support value-added processing of imperfect produce, surplus product and byproducts (i.e. work with suppliers/marketing orders and federal grading standards to allow more variance in grades and eliminate any restrictions of sale).
  • Partner with other industries to leverage more weight in driving markets (i.e., compost development).
  • Improve practices to ensure wholesome, nutritious, excess food gets to people (e.g., develop institutional protocols, allocate infrastructure, and partner with food recovery service to consistently pick up food).
  • Develop on-site solutions where feasible (e.g., shared fridge approach for employees/students, redistribute excess food to students in need on site, in-vessel composting options for institutional food services).
  • Provide incentives for guest/client food waste prevention.
  • Educate guests/clients on ways they can help prevent waste at retail/food service establishments.
  • Develop industry-wide standardized measurement methodology to track food waste and a mechanism to aggregate and disseminate information gathered.

Consumers and Donation

Key Stakeholders

  • Individual Consumers or Groups
  • Soup Kitchens
  • Food Banks
  • Schools/Institutions
  • Faith-Based Organizations
  • Non-profit/Advocacy Organizations

Opportunities Highlighted by Stakeholders

Reduce wasted food by tailoring purchase and preparation practices and providing the public with clear information about the wholesomeness of food as well as the importance of food stewardship.

Opportunities for Individuals:

  • Reduce wasted food due to spoilage through behavior change:
    • Tailor purchases around meal planning;
    • Reduce plate waste by preparing meals according to recommended serving sizes; and
    • Conduct frequent pantry and refrigerator checks (i.e., shop your refrigerator first).
  • Participate in residential, community or home compost projects where available.

Opportunities for Groups:

  • Provide education and outreach for targeted audiences with clear, consistent definitions and messaging.
  • Educate households on proper food storage focusing on fresh produce.
  • Provide information to clients, customers, and the public about date labeling and food safety as well as tips on recipes and storage to maximize food usage.
  • Improve training and training tools for those working and volunteering at donation centers (e.g., food safety, handling and storage, quality of products, applicable guidelines).
  • Explore opportunities to recover (animal feed) or recycle (compost, industrial uses) food waste.

Demonstrated PracticesThe following links exit the site Exit

Demonstrated Practices for Consumers and Donation
  • See Sustainable America’s awareness and education tool: I Value Food
  • The American Chemistry Council is investigating the role of food packaging to reduce food loss and waste at the household level, and potentially throughout the food system.

Actions Suggested by StakeholdersThe following links exit the site Exit

For Individuals: For Groups:
  • Create new routines before going grocery shopping such as “shopping your refrigerator first” and meal mapping to tailor your grocery list.
  • For foodbanks distributing items nearing past their prime, provide clients simple and nutritious recipes that help lengthen the viability of the food and that are also easily portioned.
  • Prior to freezing proteins (e.g., meat, seafood) or other perishable items portion and store them based on serving sizes. See: USDA’s Choose My Plate for easy to use tools to plan meals, improve your diet and reduce wasted food.
  • Target specific groups to amplify messages (e.g., faith organizations, millennials).
  • Tailor recipes and meals to best use food nearing their prime. See: Love Food Hate Waste website and app.
  • Create rescue organization network to combine efforts and share information on best practices, networks, safety protocols/procedures. See examples like the Global Food Safety Initiative for cold chain management.
  • For perishable food or prepared foods (e.g., leftovers, takeout, store prepared items) as well as other items in your pantry, use resources like the FoodKeeper app for guidelines on how long items keep under certain conditions (e.g., frozen, refrigerated, dry storage).
  • Share fleet resources, analyze routes and combine stops where possible.
  • To learn more about new tax incentives for businesses that donate food (as of Dec. 2015), see Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic’s, University of Arkansas', and Food Recovery Project’s Tax Deduction for Food Donation: a legal guide (see Disclaimer of Endorsement statement above).


Key Stakeholders

  • Composters
  • Energy Recovery/Anaerobic Digestion
  • Industrial Uses
  • Transporters
  • Animal Feed Operators

Opportunities Highlighted by Stakeholders

Bolster and improve recovery and recycling operations by creating partnerships that reduce business expenses, improve education and outreach, and create new markets.

Opportunities for Recovery Operations:

  • For animal feed operations, increase the usage of food waste and food byproducts, as allowable under federal, state and local law.
  • Publicize food recovery programs to recognize partnering businesses and organizations.
  • Reduce transportation cost by developing co-ops, partnerships or other relationships that reduce or distribute cost among several operations/organizations.

Opportunities for Recycling Operations:

  • Develop partnerships and collaborations within the local area to optimize operations and build capacity.
  • To maintain the viability of your operation, develop well researched business and operational practices. Make sure to fully account for siting, available technologies, training of staff, potential feedstocks and customers, nuisance issues (e.g., odor), community support, scalability of operations, applicable laws, and other key factors.
  • Build and maintain the support of the surrounding community to the operations.
  • Develop strategies to control feedstock contamination as well as other common physical (moisture) or chemical issues (pH) typical of composting or digestion operations.
  • Create opportunities by developing clear messages on benefits of food recovery and recycling.

Demonstrated PracticesThe following links exit the site Exit

Demonstrated Practices for Recovery/Recycling
  • Successful pilot programs with Charleston County Schools (now 48 schools) and the College of Charleston (expanded to all dining facilities and small service counters). See: Food Waste Disposal example
  • Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is creating an on-package label that is clear and consistent on what to do with the package. See: How2Compost Label

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders

For Recovery Operations For Recycling Operations For Recovery and Recycling Operations
  • Reach out to local businesses (e.g., grocery stores, caters, restaurants, brewers) and organizations (e.g., food banks, school cafeterias, soup kitchens) to establish formal programs with clear guidelines on acceptable sources/types of discarded/excess food.
  • Continue to create toolkits and foster research to overcome common operational issues such as contamination of feedstock, odor, chemical issues (pH), physical issues (moisture level).
  • Work with other recovery operations as well as local organic waste haulers to determine mutually beneficial arrangements to reduce transportation costs and other operational expenses.
  • Create local media campaigns/recognition events to bolster existing partnerships and build public support.
  • Create and share public education tools that can be used to inform surrounding residents of an organics recovery or recycling operation and other key stakeholders.
  • Develop and share training protocols and programs for employees.

Regulators/Policy Makers

Key Stakeholders

  • Federal Government
  • Local Government
  • StateGovernment
  • Tribal Government
  • Non-governmental Organizations

Opportunities Highlighted by Stakeholders

Promote the reduction of food loss and waste through policies, guidance and other tools that will strengthen communities and reduce the associated environmental, social, and economic impacts.


  • To get a better understanding of the size and impacts of food loss and waste, help standardize measurement and data analysis tools.
  • Foster private and public collaboration to reduce food loss and waste and find new opportunities within local communities and regions.
  • To increase food donation and recovery/recycling, provide clarity on laws and regulations related to food safety, food donations, and organic recycling and recovery operations.
  • Help to create and deliver effective and consistent messaging to the public about the importance of food stewardship and the need to address food loss and waste.
  • Provide grants to help secondary resellers expand to lower-income neighborhoods and eradicate food deserts.
  • Create opportunities to recognize leaders in private and public sectors taking action to reduce food loss and waste.
  • Convene meetings with stakeholders to improve the state of the food system and help craft new strategies to address food loss and waste.
  • Establish clear goals and strategic plans to achieve the 2030 FLW reduction goal.


  • Assist and support private and public collaborations to reduce food loss and waste.
  • To increase food donation and recovery/recycling, provide clarity and consistency on regulations related to food safety, food donations, and organics recycling and recovery operations.
  • Work with community and local business leaders to develop messaging to the public on the importance of reducing wasted food and the need to address food loss and waste in your jurisdiction.
  • Create opportunities to recognize leaders in the private and public sectors taking action to reduce food loss and waste.
  • Convene meetings with stakeholders to improve the state of the industry and help craft new strategies to address food loss and waste.

Demonstrated PracticesThe following links exit the site Exit

Federal Laws: Federal Efforts: Federal Resources and Tools State, Local, and Tribal Efforts State, Local, and Tribal Resources and Tools International Efforts Non-governmental Organization Tools
  • The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act- was created to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to qualified nonprofit organizations and provides liability protection to food donors. Under this Act, as long as the donor has not acted with negligence or intentional misconduct, the company is not liable for damage incurred as the result of illness.
  • Compost and organic recycling regulations. See State of South Carolina’s experience with Compost Regulations
  • The World Resources Institute (WRI) will develop a global accounting and reporting standard for quantifying food and associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain.
See the State of Massachusetts Economic Impact Analysis for their Commercial Food Waste Ban
  • The U.S. Federal Food Donation Act of 2008 specifies procurement contract language encouraging federal agencies and contractors of federal agencies to donate excess wholesome food to eligible nonprofit organizations to feed food-insecure people in the United States.
  • Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s industry assistance program for food waste. See: RecyclingWorks Food Waste
  • Will host or help sponsor 2030 FLW reduction goal meetings and summits. Host/co-host one event annually with key stakeholders to discuss progress.
  • Is initiating a wide range of programs to help make reducing food loss and waste the first-best option for farmers, businesses, organizations and consumers.
  • Ongoing work with the World Resource Institute to develop a standard measuring protocol.

Actions as Suggested by Stakeholders

Federal State, Tribal, and Local
  • Convene stakeholders including private sector, NGOs, agriculture, academia, government, and other relevant sectors and federal government.
  • Meet with local food producers, retailers, transports, food banks, food advocacy groups (NGOs), faith leaders, and food recovery/recycling operations (e.g., composters, biogas producers), to identify local issues and opportunities surrounding food loss and waste.
  • Help develop and make available a standard measurement tool.
  • Where feasible and prudent, explore tailoring of regulations and policies to safely promote FLW reduction and recovery programs.
  • Institute a process for documenting progress on the 2030 FLW reduction goal.
  • Where available, explore funding FLW reduction community pilot programs as well as FLW recovery/recycling infrastructure investments.
  • Where available, provide funding opportunities to help spur development of new FLW reduction programs and infrastructure.
  • Provide technical assistance to donation and food recovery operations.
  • Support and promote pilot projects with potential to scale up.

Top of Page