WASHINGTON, D.C. — As America celebrates Thanksgiving this week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler reminds U.S. families and communities to be mindful about finishing, donating, or simply cutting back on the amount of food they prepare to help prevent food waste this holiday season.
“This week, millions of Americans will gather for Thanksgiving to share a traditional family meal,” Wheeler said. “One way to act on the gratitude we feel this holiday season is to use food without waste. By wasting less and feeding people instead of filling landfills, we’re preserving our environment, caring for those less fortunate, and supporting our local communities.”
There are many ways to reduce food waste during the preparation and storage of meals. Just as we donate food before Thanksgiving, it can make sense to consider donating excess unopened or unused food afterwards as well to those in need.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2018, about over 37 million Americans money or lived in food insecure households (didn’t have enough food during the year to meet the needs of all their members). Additional information about how to reduce food waste at the source or donate excess food is below.
Thanksgiving Food Waste Reduction Prep Tips
- Create your shopping list with your menu and number of guests in mind.
- Shop your refrigerator and pantry first. Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
- Be mindful of ingredients and leftovers you will need to use. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish with your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.
- Plan an “eat the leftovers” night after your big meal. Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use Thanksgiving ingredients and leftovers. Search for websites that provide suggestions for using leftover holiday ingredients.
- Befriend your freezer. Freeze extra food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to use or eat in time.
- Consider donation of unused, non-perishable food items.
Food Recipient Organizations
If your organization hosted an event with excess prepared but unserved food, you may consider partnering with a food recipient organization. Remember to make arrangements in advance for potential drop-offs or pick-ups of excess food. The following sites contain tools that allow users to search for food banks, pantries, soup kitchens and shelters that may be interested in accepting wholesome, excess food:
Facts about food waste:
- EPA estimates that more food (over 76 billion pounds) reaches landfills and combustion facilities than any other material in everyday trash, constituting 22% of discarded municipal solid waste.
- Landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States.
- Food waste not only impacts landfill space and emissions, it hurts the economy. The USDA estimates the value of food available but not eaten at the retail and consumer level to be over $161 billion.
- Food waste consumes 21% of all fresh water globally.
In October 2018, EPA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the USDA signed a formal agreement to align efforts across the federal government to educate consumers, engage stakeholders, and develop and evaluate solutions to food loss and waste.
EPA has taken significant measures to highlight the need to reduce food waste nationally, including working with President Trump and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to successfully designate April 2019 as “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month” in order to place more national attention on this important issue.
In April 2019, Administrator Wheeler and leadership from USDA and FDA convened a summit at EPA bringing state and local stakeholders together to form partnerships with leading food waste reduction non-governmental organizations. At this event, over 30 governmental organizations signed onto a new pledge in which state, local, tribal and territorial government organizations solidify interest in working with the federal government to continue to build upon existing efforts back home to reduce food loss and waste. Also at the summit, EPA announced $110,000 in funding for food waste management and infrastructure projects (to expand anaerobic digestion capacity) in Wisconsin, Vermont, and Washington. EPA also opened a Small Business Innovation Research Grants program solicitation in 2019, which included “preventing food waste” as a topic.