America has a food distribution problem. Food makes up 24 percent of America’s landfill contributions. While our food waste takes up space in our problematic landfills, it also contributes to climate change. As we grapple with climate change and other environmental issues, food waste presents itself both as a problem and as an opportunity. Currently, 34 million people in the U.S. face food insecurity. We can divert food waste away from landfills to feed those in need while addressing the major environmental challenges of our time. But how can we shift away from the practices that have contributed to our food waste problems? Laws and local ordinances may hold a solution.
Boston’s Proposition to Tackle Food Waste
In the first quarter of 2023, Boston city council members proposed an ordinance to require certain food vendors to donate leftover food to prevent food waste and support local charities addressing the needs of local communities. The solution is actually a common one, connecting local businesses with excess food to charities that are equipped to pass it on to those in need. However, the practice is not universal. Changing the ordinance to make it mandatory for those businesses to pass their leftover food on would change that, diverting food from landfills and addressing local hunger.
Potential Pushback on a Food Ordinance
There is a simple reason that donating leftover food is not already universally practiced by businesses that create food waste: inconvenience. An ordinance like the one proposed in Boston would put some burden on businesses including restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores that would need to coordinate the pickup of food waste, rather than simply throwing it in the dumpster. Provisions like this one are most likely to succeed if they come with specific structural supports to help businesses connect with appropriate charities.
Steps Toward a Food-waste-free Future
While laws requiring food donation may not be in place yet, there are opportunities to encourage and engage in food donation that prevents waste and feeds those in need.
Donate food and support food charities: Learn how you can donate food that would otherwise go to waste. If you don’t already have an excess of food, consider financially supporting food charities. Search Charity Navigator to find and vet organizations before you make a donation.
Support local businesses engaging in donations: Is there a store or restaurant near you that is already part of a donation scheme? You can show your support by patronizing that business and leaving a review that mentions your appreciation for their donations.
Support laws and ordinances that require and facilitate food donations: There may already be a movement in your city or state to mandate diverting food waste. You can directly participate in the effort or support organizations driving change. If there isn’t a movement already in progress, you can start one and be a part of the solution in your community.