Food Rescue

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Why Rescue Food?

While 1 in 6 Washingtonians are turning to their local food bank, food pantry or meal program for food assistance, approximately 40% of the food grown in the U.S. is thrown away. While some of this is food waste - the inedible parts of food like cores, rinds, etc. - most of it is good, edible food.  Waste happens at every part of the food system, from the field, to the processor, to transportation, to stores, restaurants, hospitals, schools and homes.  If you can find a place with food, you can probably find food waste.  The average American wastes over 200 pounds of food each year. 

When this wasted food is put into the trash, it rots in the landfill where it produces methane. In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest producer of greehouse gases, behind China and the United States.  This is why the USDA and EPA have both adopted goals to significantly reduce food waste over the next 15 years.  Not only can we keep wasted food out of the landfill where it negatively impacts the environment, we can get more high-quality, good, safe food to hunger relief agencies across the state. 

Adopting a Statewide Goal

In alignment with the precedent set by the USDA & EPA, in 2019, the Washington State legislature adopted a bill that finds the wasting of food represents a misuse of resources, including the water, land, energy, labor, and capital that go into growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, and retailing food for human consumption. Wasting edible food occurs all along the food production supply chain, and reducing the waste of edible food is a goal that can be achieved only with the collective efforts of growers, processors, distributors, retailers, consumers of food, and food bankers and related charities. Inedible food waste can be managed in ways that reduce negative environmental impacts and provide beneficial results to the land, air, soil, and energy infrastructure. Efforts to reduce the waste of food and expand the diversion of food waste to beneficial end uses will also require the mindful support of government policies that shape the behavior and waste reduction opportunities of each of those participants in the food supply chain.    

Read the Bill

By establishing state wasted food reduction goals and developing a state wasted food reduction strategy, it is the intent of the legislature to continue its national leadership in solid waste reduction efforts by:

  1.  Improving efficiencies in the food production and distribution system in order to reduce the cradle to grave greenhouse gas emissions associated with wasted food;
  2. Fighting hunger by more efficiently diverting surplus food to feed hungry individuals and families in need; and
  3. Supporting expansion of management facilities for inedible food waste to improve access and facility performance while reducing the volumes of food that flow through those facilities.

By October 1, 2020, the Department of Ecology, in collaboration with the Department of Health and WSDA, must develop a statewide plan to cut the amount of wasted food in half over the next ten years. 

This plan must include strategies to reduce wasting food by businesses and consumers, to support the capacity for hunger relief agencies to "rescue" good edible food that would otherwise be wasted and get it to hungry people, and to support "recovery" of non-edible wasted food by diverting it to animal feed, energy production, and compost.  Developing this plan will require input from a stakeholder advisory panel, including representatives from hunger relief agencies as well as solid waste professionals and representatives from all aspects of the food system.  

Before we work to rescue more good food, let's remember to reduce the amount of food we waste. Learn how long produce stays fresh and how to store it in order to make the most out of the fresh produce in your home.