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Blumenthal Launches Effort To Combat Food Waste While Feeding The Hungry

Volunteers with Norwalk-based Community Plates make food deliveries in big blue bins.
Volunteers with Norwalk-based Community Plates make food deliveries in big blue bins. Photo Credit: File
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness, File

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- In response to the staggering amount of food wasted in the United States every year, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has joined his colleagues in introducing comprehensive legislation to reduce food waste in stores and restaurants, at schools and institutions, on farms and in American homes.

The Food Recovery Act will address food waste across the food supply chain. Studies indicate the need to do so is great.

According to estimates, as much as 40 percent of food across the food supply system in the United States is never eaten, damaging the environment, costing consumers money and wasting an opportunity to reduce hunger.

“Food is the single largest contributor to landfills today,” Blumenthal said. “And the sad truth is much of this food is tossed when it is perfectly good to eat and safe to consume.”

Members of one local organization agreed.

The group, Community Plates, takes usable food that facilities such as restaurants and markets may otherwise have discarded and donates it to individuals and families in need.

Headquartered in Norwalk, the group has gathered nearly 12 million pounds of leftover food for redistribution.

The nonprofit’s founder, Jeff Schacher, in an open letter on the group’s website, notes that restaurants "throw away a lot of food. A lot.”

“Food insecurity is a real problem in parts of the U.S.,” he adds. “Many families don't have a good idea where their next meal is coming from. Some people go to work every day and by the time they pay for the roof over their head, their heat and electricity, there isn't always enough money left for food that week.”

According to Community Plates, Fairfield County – where the bulk of the group’s food is gathered – is home to up to 100,000 people who may be classified as “food insecure,” despite the community’s affluent reputation.

Blumenthal is hopeful his legislation will alert others to the importance of dealing with the nation’s food crisis.

“Whether it is because a grocery store considers its produce ugly, a restaurant’s serving sizes are too large or a consumer was confused by its date label, this wasted food damages our environment and our pocketbooks,” he said. “And it is an affront in a country in which far too many of our citizens continue to go to bed hungry every night. By diverting healthy food from landfills, this comprehensive legislation will help feed the hungry, protect the environment and save consumers money.”

The Food Recovery Act aims to:

  • Reduce food waste at the consumer level through the inclusion of the Food Date Labeling Act to standardize confusing food date labels.
  • Reduce food wasted in schools by encouraging cafeterias to purchase lower-price “ugly” fruits and vegetables, and by expanding grant programs that educate students about food waste and recovery.
  • Reduce wasted food throughout the federal government through the creation of an Office of Food Recovery to coordinate federal efforts, and by requiring companies that contract with the federal government to donate surplus food to organizations such as food banks and soup kitchens.
  • Reduce wasted food going to landfills by encouraging composting as a conservation practice eligible for support under the USDA’s conservation programs.
  • Reduce wasted food through research by directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop new technologies to increase the shelf life of fresh food, and by requiring the USDA to establish a standard for how to estimate the amount of wasted food at the farm level.

The legislation was also introduced by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

It was introduced by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, in the House of Representatives,

The legislation is supported by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., the World Wildlife Fund and Feeding America.

For more information on Community Plates, call 800-280-3298, or visit the group’s website by clicking here .

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