By Lauren Palumbo, Lovin’ Spoonfuls Chief Operating Officer
At Lovin’ Spoonfuls, we focus on recovering and distributing excess food to nonprofit partners serving folks in need across Massachusetts. We do this work because of the shocking parallel statistics that at least 35% of our food in the United States is wasted, and more than 40 million Americans struggle to access enough food. Day-to-day, we focus much of our efforts on improving our food rescue systems and efficacy, sharing this work with our broader community (through posts like this!), and planning to expand our services to communities we’re not yet reaching.
Sometimes though, we need to zoom a bit further out and look at some of the root causes of wasted food in our food system and how we can tackle them. This is where we turn to advocacy at LS. Here are a few advocacy efforts we’ve focused on recently and hope you’ll engage with as well!
- National Policy: In 2015, USDA & EPA partnered to announce a national goal of reducing food loss & waste in the US by 50% by 2030. Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with many partners including ReFed and the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, announced a National Food Loss & Waste action plan. This new plan is aimed at ensuring the country can reach a 50% reduction through national policy measures, including:
- the prevention of food waste in landfills,
- institutionalizing surplus food donation,
- implementing a national date label standard, and
- educating consumers on preventing waste.
Ensuring leadership on these issues at the national level can make a broad impact quickly. While many states are working to implement their own initiatives, a national policy will have a more profound impact overall. You can learn more about the Action Plan here.
- Massachusetts Policy: Massachusetts is already a leader in preventing food waste in landfills, rolling out one of the country’s first organic waste bans back in 2014! These bans work to lower the overall amounts of wasted food by keeping excess food out of the waste stream altogether through food donation, energy production, and composting. Since then, many states have followed suit. But there’s more Massachusetts could be doing to lead on these issues, and we’ve advocated in recent months for the following:
- Lowering the threshold on the Commercial Organics Waste Ban. Originally set at a limit of 1 ton/week, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now moving toward a lowered threshold of ½ ton/week. This will ensure more businesses and institutions are subject to the regulation and will work to keep more food waste out of the waste stream.
- Expanding liability protection for food donations. Currently, businesses are protected from liability when donating excess food to nonprofit organizations feeding people in need. An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need (SD.385: Jo Comerford / HD.1204: Hannah Kane) filed in the current legislative session would work to expand that protection to donations to individuals as well as adding an important tax credit for farms that donate food.
These are some of the initiatives we outlined in a recent advisory on Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ policy priorities, take a look and learn what other local policies can make an impact in our work here, and reach out to your elected officials to encourage their support of these bills!
- Funding: In addition to putting support behind bills that address statewide policy, Lovin’ Spoonfuls occasionally seeks state funding to support the expansion of our services into new regions. This funding can catalyze local and regional community funders and ensure the successful launch of each regional expansion. Currently, we’re working with state legislators to seek funding for expansion into Worcester County.
By spending time addressing these root causes of food waste and supporting the expansion of food waste reduction efforts, we work to ensure progress towards the goal of reducing food waste across the state and country. Learn more about how you can get involved with our advocacy efforts here!