In the United States 62 million tons of food on average goes unconsumed every year. The upside to wasted food is that it can be composted to create fertilizer or transformed into other usable of energy through chemical processes. Uneaten food can also be distributed to those who suffer from food insecurity and poverty. Reducing food waste has the potential to alleviate two significant problems with one solution.
Food waste usually ends up in a landfill where it breaks down into forms of methane, a significant contributor to climate change. Food waste consumes an estimated 21 percent of U.S. freshwater, nearly 20 percent of cropland, while also utilizing significant amounts of fertilizer, which can pose certain environmental threats such as algae blooms. Food waste demonstrates inefficiency that leads to revenue loss and increased pollution. New York State itself produces 275,000 tons of food waste every year. It is for these reasons that Governor Cuomo has proposed a comprehensive plan to reduce food waste.
The Governor’s proposal includes providing grants to help towns and cities of New York to develop their own compost programs, while also providing support to food banks to help them to improve their food and monetary donation collection capacity. The proposal also further endeavors to help food banks through creating a database connecting volunteers to food banks where they can help to increase food waste collection from restaurants and supermarkets. There will also be steps to improve food generator infrastructure to help better redirect excess food and waste. The proposal also requires that entities that consume over 2 tons of food per week must donate leftovers and recycle excess scraps.
The proposal from the Governor aims to enact the Farm-to-Food Bank Bill following a letter from a large coalition of 144 groups who believe New York farmers should not suffer financial losses for donating 12 million pounds of food each year. The Governor vetoed the bill each of the last two sessions saying it needs to be included in the budget, despite strong support from the New York League of Conservation Voters. But now it has a budget line. All that is needed to make it a reality is for it to remain in the final budget agreement at the end of March.
The program hopes to enable farmers to receive some form of compensation in order to make it easier for farmers to continue to donate food without incurring debt. Through this program, farmers can receive tax breaks when they donate excess produce. The production of excess food varies for every product and for each farming season. Many farmers work in cooperation with larger corporations who will only accept a certain amount of food, all of the excess turns to waste. However, with the implementation of this bill it will be easier for farmers to donate this excess to food banks.
If passed, this will help further reduce food waste throughout the state, thereby increasing efficiency, reducing pollution, and alleviating hunger throughout the state.