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FLPC Releases Report Identifying Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste Through the Next Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) Legislation

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), in partnership with ReFED and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), released a report today identifying policy recommendations to decrease food waste through the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) bill. The report, Leveraging Child Nutrition Reauthorization to Reduce Food Waste, provides fourteen policy solutions that Congress can implement as part of the CNR process to address food waste in the child nutrition programs and food waste generated by households.

In the United States, 54 million tons of food—nearly 24 percent of the food supply—ends up in landfills or otherwise goes to waste each year.  This food waste drains the nation’s water, land, fuel, and other resources, and exacerbates nationwide environmental pollution.  It also represents a missed opportunity to feed food-insecure individuals an estimated 130 billion meals’ worth of food during a time when food insecurity has risen dramatically. In order to meet the joint USDA and EPA goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030 and address rising levels of food insecurity, Congress must make food waste reduction a legislative priority in the next few years.

CNR provides a valuable opportunity to address food waste. CNR is Congress’s periodic process of updating the permanent statutes that authorize child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and other related programs. Although CNR bills are typically passed every five years, the most recent CNR legislation was the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010. The programs CNR authorizes provide unique and impactful settings to educate children and consumers about reducing food waste, and reducing food waste aligns well with CNR programs’ goals of strengthening the nation’s nutrition programs and reducing food insecurity.  Food waste reduction efforts in schools, in particular, also hold promise as a way to educate and influence children’s behavior to reduce household food waste today and in the future.

The report provides specific policy solutions that can make a significant difference in food waste. The report lays out general changes that can be made to the Child Nutrition Act, such as expanding the liability protections for food donors provided by the Emerson Act, as well as policy changes that are specific to key child nutrition programs such as NSLP and WIC. As one example, the report recommends that Congress create financial incentives, such as grant funding, for schools to engage in school food waste audits. These audits can help school food authorities understand the scope of their food waste problem and identify specific areas for improvement. Several of our top priority recommendations are highlighted in an executive summary. The report also highlights several administrative opportunities through which the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could prioritize food waste reduction independent of new Congressional action.

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