Anti-Food Waste Coalition Aims to Help Economy, Environment and the Hungry

Originally published by Yahoo Finance on November 13, 2019.

In late October, three major U.S. government agencies as well as trade associations for the food manufacturing, grocery and restaurant industries announced their new partnership with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. Their goal? To cut food waste in half by 2030. Partners in the coalition include: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture (DOA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the founders of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance—the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association. “These are the right people,” says food technology expert Debbie Meyer, “and they understand the problem. It’s up to all of us in the industry to help them find and disseminate workable solutions to cut down on this extraordinary amount of food waste.”

Food waste, notes Meyer, is a global issue. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), some 14 percent of all food produced in the world is lost annually, with central and southern Asia, North America and Europe accounting for the largest shares of total waste. Food waste, as it goes into landfills, is also a contributor to greenhouse gas production and thus to climate change. According to FAO figures, if food waste were a country, it would have the third largest greenhouse footprint in the world, behind China and the U.S.

One cause of American food waste, Meyer notes, may be the widespread misunderstanding generated by a bewildering array of non-standardized expiration date labels. A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic suggested that more than 90 percent of Americans may be prematurely discarding food because they misunderstand the “best by” dates as an indication of food safety.

Grocers are frustrated with unclear expiration label practices as well, as it causes them to run through products and lose money due to picky shopper preferences. One grocery store owner went so far as to eat expired foods for a year to prove that they’re not the sole indicator of food safety. Despite his commendable efforts to help reduce the food waste crisis, Meyer says, eating expired products is not a viable solution for consumers, especially considering that nearly half of total food waste takes place before the products even reach the store.

Keeping fresh produce fresh longer is a major problem and a growing challenge in the world today. Meyer asserts that there is available technology and procedures to extend the life and freshness of food even before it even reaches the shelves. This technology is proven to extend the life of fresh produce and baked goods, for instance, in the home environment and can be widely applied in all phases of food preservation from field to table and beyond.

In some parts of the world, she notes, the waste seen in transit is because there is simply not enough cold storage capacity at crucial points in the supply chain [2]. Where cold storage is widely available, as it is in the U.S., and even in emerging countries, where preservation needs and proper food packaging and storage is badly needed, this technology can play a major role in reducing waste and extending usable life of food.

“While my company first introduced the Debbie Meyer Food Fresh Technology[TM] for use in the individual home and kitchen,” says Meyer, “we have developed ways it can be implemented at various steps in the production process, including delivery and grocery display, to extend the life of food. By naturally prolonging the ripeness and attractiveness of produce, grocers can sell more, waste less, and better serve—and retain—their customers. Together, as an industry, we can seriously reduce waste, improve our businesses, and make the world a better place. It’s a win-win.”

Now Accepting Applications for the 2020 Food Law Student Leadership Summit

The Food Law Student Leadership Summit convenes law students from around the country who share a passion for creating a transparent, equitable, just, and sustainable food system. Food law and policy is a fast-growing field within the legal profession and society at large.

The 2020 Summit will be held February 28 – March 1st in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the University of Arkansas School of Law. The event will be co-hosted by the University of Arkansas LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law and the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School, with support from the National Food Law Student Network. 

The Food Law Student Leadership Summit was launched in 2015 at Harvard Law School by the Food Law and Policy Clinic, with support from the Charles M. Haar Food and Health Law and Policy Fund and GRACE Communications Foundation. This annual Summit convenes students from around the country who share a passion for food law. Each year this event provides the opportunity for approximately  70 law students from nearly 50 law schools and two dozen nationally-renowned food law faculty, practitioners, and expert speakers to gather and discuss the most pressing issues in food law, allowing attendees to:

  • deepen their understanding of key food law and policy issues;
  • hear from advocates, academics, policy practitioners, policymakers, and more;
  • work with a small group to develop and present policy solutions;
  • gain valuable resources and insights for promoting food law and policy at their schools;
  • tour local food organizations; and
  • network and establish lasting connections with dedicated law students from across the country.

Hotel accommodations and all meals in Fayetteville will be provided for all admitted Summit participants. A transportation stipend will be provided to cover a portion of participants’ travel costs. 

We will review applications on a rolling basis beginning in November and encourage students to apply early. Admitted students will be notified in December and January. Please email any questions to flsls@law.harvard.edu.

ACCESS THE APPLICATION