The days of the current White House Administration may be winding down, but they still took time to make history recently by hosting the first White House Roundtable on Food Waste.
For all of us at the table, the invitation was validating. It proved that this issue was finally getting the attention it deserved from private and public sectors. I was especially excited that Feeding America had been included in the conversation however – because it demonstrated recognition of the inherent link between reducing food waste and ending hunger.
Looking around the room, I was awed by the sheer number of stakeholders in attendance, and I was encouraged by the varied sectors and views they represented. This indicated the true bipartisan nature of the food waste problem. In addition to Administration staff, there were representatives from EPA, FDA, USDA and participants from food industry associations, individual food companies, private sector investment companies and foundations, consumer and environmental advocacy groups and a few smaller hunger-relief and food-rescue organizations.
While the individual missions of each of our organizations may have differed, we were all united at the table in our commitment to raise awareness about the issue of wasted food in this country and to respond to the invitation issued by the White House, to engage in solutions.
Over the course of 90 minutes, discussion covered the gamut of alternatives to reducing and recovering food waste. Highlights were shared about the work being done currently by government agencies to increase composting, anaerobic digestion and especially donation. But the bulk of the conversation was focused on identifying needs and ways to move forward.
In the conversation, we discussed data needs and government resources that could meet them. We talked about innovative programs being tested and how shared public and private resources would be critical to helping them expand. And we emphasized the need for a creative forum hold this collaborative idea exchange going forward.
Throughout the discussion, a commitment to utilizing excess food for feeding the people facing hunger was of the highest priority. Not just rescuing any food, but also focusing on rescuing the food with the highest nutritional value and ensuring it’s handled safely with the health of the ultimate person served in mind.
This passionate round-table full of colleagues that reminded me how critical this issue is for today as we struggle to feed the 48 million Americans facing hunger.
I walked away from this historic opportunity deeply appreciative that the Obama Administration is committed to doing what they can even as they face their last few months in office. I also feel hopeful that the issues of food waste and ending hunger to also be a priority for the next administration no matter who holds the office next.
I’m also grateful that, as the leader in food rescue and hunger relief in the U.S., Feeding America is well positioned to deepen our work and increase our impact through opportunities like this. And personally I’m inspired to do more and to be part of the movement that will truly make a difference not only for people today, but for generations to come.
*Karen Hanner is the managing director of manufacturing partnerships at Feeding America.