We typically waste about ⅓ of all of the calories our farmers produce, and the pandemic has likely made that number even higher. When the food service market all but disappeared, fresh produce in warehouses had nowhere to go. Crops that had already been planted are now ready, and the market has not yet returned, typically leading to enormous food waste.
Sarah Hulick is responsible for Grower Innovation at Full Harvest Technologies, which facilitates markets for food that would otherwise be wasted.
“Right when this all started in like mid- to late March, it was actually more like they were already harvested and sitting in warehouses. And that’s really hard because every single cost is already sunk in that product, including the plastic wrap on the cauliflower heads, the cooling, the energy, everything is already in that product,” noted Hulick. “You know, right now it’s more like maybe they planted for higher demand and now it’s sitting out in a field and they have to make that tough choice to till it in. Or if they have a good relationship with a food bank, they could harvest it and send it to a food bank. But yeah, there’s a lot of food being wasted right now,” said Hulick.
Hulick said the logistics of getting fresh produce to a food bank can be complicated, and in California it cannot be taken to a landfill. Some farmers are being forced to till their harvest in due to lack of markets.
In U.S., One-Third of all Available Food Goes Uneaten Through Loss or Waste.
News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh
Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) kick off Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month by calling for greater collaboration with public, private, and nonprofit partners as well as state and local officials to educate and engage consumers and stakeholders throughout the supply chain on the need to reduce food loss and waste.
In the U.S., more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash. In recent years, great strides have been made to highlight and mitigate food loss and waste, but the work has just begun. When food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for economic growth, healthier communities, and environmental prosperity—but that can change through partnership, leadership, and action. Further elevating the importance of this issue, the recent announcement follows aPresidential Messagefrom President Trump acknowledging the month of April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month and encouraging public action and participation from all sectors.
“Reducing food waste and redirecting excess food to people, animals, or energy production provide immediate benefits to public health and the environment. I am proud to join President Trump and my federal partners in recognizing April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month,”EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.“We are working closely with our federal partners and stakeholders across the nation to reduce the amount of food going to landfills and maximize the value of our food resources.”
“USDA alone cannot end food waste, it will require partners from across the supply chain working together on innovative solutions and consumer education. We need to feed our hungry world, and by reducing food waste, we can more wisely use the resources we have. I am pleased President Trump identified this issue as one of importance, and I look forward to USDA’s continued work with our agency partners at EPA and FDA to change behavior in the long term on food waste,”U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.
“With 1 in 6 people getting a foodborne illness every year in the U.S. and up to 40 percent of food left uneaten, it’s understandable why food safety and food waste are major societal concerns,”FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas said.“The FDA is working to strengthen its collaboration and coordination with the EPA and USDA to strategically align our federal efforts between the two issues to better educate Americans on how to reduce food waste and how it can be done safely.”
As part of the month’s observances, on April 9, EPA will host a live-streamed event with USDA and FDA. Additional joint agency actions will be announced at the event regarding the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. At the event, a panel of food waste stakeholders will share how state and local communities can join the federal government in reducing food waste and loss.
USDA, EPA, and FDA invite public and private partners to participate in Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month through the following:
Join the conversation: Share your efforts with the #NoWastedFood hashtag in your social media posts throughout the month.
Educate your community: Learn about USDA,EPA, andFDAprograms and resources to reduce food loss and waste.
Be aU.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion: Join other corporate and business leaders who have made a public commitment to reducing food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50 percent by the year 2030.
The Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative is acollaborative effortamong USDA, EPA, and FDA to reduce food loss and waste through combined and agency-specific action. Individually and collectively, these agencies contribute to the initiative, encourage long-term reductions, and work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste in the United States. These actions include research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation, and policy discussion.
“No Taste for Waste” Initiative Starts a Big Conversation
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
As we end 2018 and head to 2019, it’s a good idea to think about reducing food waste. CropLife America, a national trade organization that represents manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of pesticides, is working to minimize the amount of food Americans throw away every day. Kellie Bray, Senior Director of Government Affairs for CropLife, encourages Americans to start the conversation of food waste.
“This is a conversation that is so important not only to growers and producers but to consumers and the people who are really cognizant of food issues. Not only making sure that they save money and food in their own homes but making sure too that people who need food have it,” Bray urged.
In order to set this conversation into motion, CropLife, along with the American Farm Bureau and Meredith Corporation, have partnered on an initiative called, “No Taste for Waste.” The initiative has worked to create a “bookazine” that was available in grocery stores and even your local Target.
“It’s a combination of recipes, farmer’s stories, and tips and tricks on how to maximize the food you have now, so nothing goes to waste,” Bray explained.
Get the Facts on Food Waste
The amount of food wasted in the United States equates to more than 1,250 calories per day, per person, annually.
Food waste is responsible for at least 2.6 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The number one contributor to all landfill content is food waste, contributing around 21 percent each year.
Each year, between 125 and 160 billion pounds of food are left uneaten in the United States.
Between 21 to 33 percent of agricultural water use is accounted for by food waste.
Cropland of uneaten food accounts for between 18 to 28 percent of U.S. total cropland, which is more than the entire state of New Mexico.
Households are responsible for the largest portion of all food waste. At 238 pounds of food per person, that equals 76 billion pounds!
Many farmers cut back on food waste by using unsold produce as feed for livestock or compost in the soil.
Increased funding to make farming easier is a priority, an expert told California Ag Today recently. LaKisha Odom is the science program director for the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research based in Washington, DC. Funding sound science is a goal for the foundation.
“We are interested in increasing the amount of funding that is available to make farming and decision making easier,” Odom said.
This is all based on sound science. Their foundation base depends on the readily available funding.
“We match public-private dollars and increase that amount of funding available to fund sound science,” she explained.
The funding is for foundations and agencies that will assist farmers.
“The universities, industry partners, foundations and the research that’s funded by those entities can then inform those decision makers to assist those farmers who are making those decisions,” she said.
“We were provided $200 million dollars in the 2014 Farm Bill,” Odom added.
There are seven challenge areas that the foundation focuses on: water scarcity; urban agriculture; food waste; food loss; making my plate your plate, which focuses on nutrition; protein challenge, which focuses on animal sustainability; and innovation pathways.
Fresno State is one of the founding partners.
“I’m working with the irrigation innovation consortium, which is a consortium of university partners as well as industry partners, and Fresno State is one of our partners in that,” Odom said.
They are working with Dr. Davis at Fresno State for ways in which they can make innovations in irrigation and make water issues a little less challenging for farmers.
California Ag Today recently met with Tinia Pina, CEO of Re-Nuble. She told us about the company and what they stand for.
“We focus on sourcing food waste from wholesale food distributors,” she said.
Re-Nuble works on diverting food to food banks instead of landfills.
Re-Nuble primarily sources in urban areas due to compliance and regularity drivers to divert the food from landfills. New York City has a 2020 goal of achieving zero waste.
“The waste that can not be diverted to food banks is processed in a more cheaply manner,” Pina said.
This waste is turned into a product that is sold directly to farms as well as through resellers as an organic liquid fertilizer and pelletized fertilizer.
“It is just raw green food waste. There is that much volume at the wholesale produce distribution level,” Pina explained.
Food that ends up as ‘waste’ is usually because it does not meet food safety compliance.
“It could be from temperatures varying, the food fell on the floor, broken pallets, and anything that would subject it to the risk of contamination; that is at the point that we collect it,” Pina said.
Re-Nuble is essentially networking, collecting, and turning food around as another renewable resource.
“We work with a hauler to source it from our one wholesale food distributor and we take it on a daily basis and we basically, within 24 hours, turn it into either a liquid fertilizer that is sold as a fertilizer for controlled environment agriculture or as a pelletized fertilizer, which is great for soil environments,” Pina explained.
The fertilizer is either resold through some of Re-Nuble’s distribution partners or directly to the farms. Re-Nuble is currently in New York; however, they are working on extending out to California.
Anna Gomes is a senior at UC Davis studying Agricultural and Environmental Education, with a focus on plant and soil science. She spoke recently to California Ag Today about consumer outreach to the next generation regarding agriculture at the recent Bayer Crop Science Agvocate Forum. She also explained the plan to open up an Ugly Food Market in Sacramento.
Gomes said her background in agricultural education prepared her for consumer outreach.
“I had a really unique journey through my undergrad career. So as an Ag Education major, not only have I been focusing on communication, but a lot of it’s been focused on, “How do we take this hard science and actually convert it into something that’s understandable from a consumer’s point of view and their perspective?’ ” she said.
Gomes said agvocacy is something that she is working on.
“I’m really interested in the science and research behind moving agriculture forward, and I think there’s huge potential there, but how do we educate consumers about this research and about what’s going on to really make it impactful and make it actually practical in the ag industry?
“I think you can really start from their perspectives. What makes them interested in agriculture, and how are they connecting to it? Is it merely that they consumed food every single day?” Gomes said. “OK, start with that. What do you eat? Where does it come from? What do you know about it? It’s good to start with them and get to know them, instead of starting with you and getting to know them.”
The Ugly Food Market is something that Gome started at UC Davis, which aims to reduce food waste and eliminate food insecurity,
“It’s a startup through the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. We’ve been participating in entrepreneurial competition. We’ve pitched for seed funds, so wish us luck,” noted Gomes. “We want to start a physical marketplace in Sacramento, focused around food waste and food insecurity. We’re using shrinks from grocery stores, cull fruit from the farm, wholesalers and distributors, all in between the food chain.”
Bayer Crop Science’s Grow On Campaign Has Six Focus Areas
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Grow On is a tool developed by Bayer Crop Science that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices. Grow On is made up of six different ag sustainability focus areas. This includes water, biodiversity, soil health, greenhouse gasses, labor, and food waste, all of which are important factors in sustainability.
California Ag Today spoke with Nevada Smith, Western Region Marketing Manager for Bayer Crop Science, about the six focus areas.
“One is water. And water is an especially important topic to Californians.”
“Biodiversity. Think about the things you’re doing in the environment, from fertility, chemistry compounds.”
“Food waste. How do you approach food waste? This is a big topic from a global aspect. Massive amounts of produce goes to waste. How can this food waste be utilized? I spoke to a grocer recently. They said they’re losing 30% of their food to food waste,” Smith explained.
“We think that soil health platform is the next wave of science for the ag industry. What’s going on in that microflora market in the soil? What are you doing to really adjust, get the air right, add right water, the right nutrients? Greenhouse gasses. How do you handle CO2 emissions?”
“Greenhouse gas is a buzzword among consumers. And what component of your farming practices are you doing to mitigate that from a practical standpoint?”
Labor is affecting everybody in California.
“And new labor laws are making business hard for small farmers. The minimal wage standard is a challenging issue, but how do growers become more efficient? How do they understand what the platforms are doing from a grower perspective? Smith said.
“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.
Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.
Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.
The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”
With the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”
Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.
“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.
Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Groundto link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:
Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.
Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.
Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”
Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”
“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”
“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation, and workers’ rights.”
Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”
Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”
Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.
During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron,Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”
Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.
Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”
Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”
Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”
This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.
UC Davis Postharvest Course Covers Food Loss, Produce Handling
By Lauren Dutra, Associate Editor
The 38th annual Postharvest Technology of Horticultural Crops Short Course concluded TODAY, June 24 at UC Davis. Presented by Beth Mitcham, director of the Postharvest Technology Center, the course focused on postharvest produce quality and safety.
“This class provided a really broad overview of all the topics that are relevant for postharvest handling of produce, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and also ornamentals,” said Mitcham. “We cover the crops that are grown in California, but because our audience includes a lot of people from around the world who want to learn the basics about postharvest handling, we also cover a few crops that aren’t grown in California for commercial purposes. Furthermore,”she noted, “we also address some of the latest technologies that are available for maintaining excellent quality,”
Maintaining a good cold chain throughout the entire shipping line is critical, according to Mitcham. “We talk a lot about temperature,” she elaborated. “In fact, we tell students the three most important things about postharvest biology and technology are: temperature, temperature and temperature. We discussed many other technologies during the week, but they are secondary to good temperature management,” she noted.
Mitcham also mentioned food waste and how to control it. “So much effort goes into growing the crop, which includes harvesting at the prime of ripeness and getting it in the pre-cooler, on the trucks and to the market. But, people buy it, put it in their refrigerator and then don’t eat it. It goes bad and they waste it. It does happen,” said Mitcham. “Our goal is to try to make the product as hearty as possible while retaining really good flavor so it can last in your refrigerator as long as possible but also so people want to eat it, so hopefully it doesn’t sit in there and degrade.”
In reducing postharvest losses, Mitcham commented on the dissonance between addressing postharvest flavor and consumer satisfaction, “In some ways they are two opposite ends of the spectrum; some of the things we do to reduce losses are counter to delivering good flavor to consumers,” she said. “We really need to do both, and that was a big part of our message this week.”
Last week, California Ag Today published an article about the food waste in America discussion held at the 2016 Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Workshop in San Francisco. Jay Vroom, CEO of CropLife America, felt the farmer’s voice was largely absent from the topic of food waste. In the second part of this series, Vroom advocates for the use of bioscience to help eliminate food waste.
According to Vroom, the most vital occurrence of food waste is in production. Consumer food waste is very high, but Vroom believes bioscience is key to keeping the statistics low in all areas of production. “The opportunities for crop protection and biotechnology span a visual that would certainly overcome food waste yield potential with biotechnology,” he said.
In addition, Vroom stated that other genetic enhancements, crop protection tools, seed bed preparation, soil health, moisture management, modern plant nutrient, fertility programs and equipment advances all underscore why farmers need to be included in the food waste discussion. “Most especially,” Vroom said agriculture community can contribute, “the miracles of precision agriculture that are out there in the hands of farmers in almost every corner of the United States today and in almost every farming system.”
At the MRL Workshop, Vroom told the audience, “The farmer’s role and the farmer’s voice in all this is largely absent. We’re looking to help lead—with many of you and others who are willing to participate in a broad coalition—in getting the farmer’s voice in there.”
The farmer’s voice, equipment and biotechnology are imperative because, “modern genetic seed advancements and breeding also generate plant material that is healthier and results in longer storability,” said Vroom. If food were to have longer storability, it wouldn’t be as much of a consumer issue.”
Vroom’s affiliates, who have surveyed the food waste landscape and uncovered results that encourage farmers to speak up, concluded, “The farmer’s voice in the food waste conversation is an opportunity that we see as wide open.”
“I think a place for us to start would be to get the facts together,” Vroom stated, “such as, ‘How much more food would be wasted if the technologies the farmers used to produce those crops today weren’t available and you would have a lot less storability, shelf life, etcetera?’”
“We know that insects, disease, weed control, regulators, fumigants, direct and indirect food waste data is out there,” Vroom said. “We need to gather that up, work together, and assemble it by crop to tell that story about the crops that are directly consumed by consumers.”
Vroom discussed food waste mostly with regard to produce; however, animals and dairy are equally important in the conversation. “Certainly it gets a little more complicated with protein; but once again, better animal nutrition results in less food waste from meat, milk and eggs. Those are animal agriculture partnerships that we don’t often reach out to, yet another opportunity for us to be able to tell that indirect story as well,” he said.
Vroom contended there are many ways for farmers in every aspect of agriculture to “join forces, connect to the food waste and food safety debate, and to eliminate these critical issues, which certainly time to time is also front of mind for consumers and voters. And we’ve got a great story to tell,” he concluded.