- The USDA invests an additional $25 million under the American Rescue Plan Act to bolster efforts against food loss and waste.
- Over one-third of all food in the U.S. is wasted, resulting in lost opportunities for food security, economic progress, and environmental betterment.
- NIFA has dedicated over $123.5 million since 2017 to projects addressing this issue. The fresh $25 million infusion will augment several of its essential programs.
- The Community Food Projects program and the Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program are among the initiatives benefiting from the funds.
- USDA partners with entities like the National 4-H Council to further its mission of revamping the U.S. food system, focusing on resilience, equity, and local and regional production.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently unveiled a significant $25 million investment to amplify its mission to curtail food loss and waste. Sourced from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), this investment is a concerted effort between two primary USDA divisions: the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE).
A striking statistic underscores the need for such an initiative: more than a third of all available food in the U.S. goes to waste. Discarded food signifies more than just a waste of resources but also missed chances for bolstering food security, driving economic expansion, and fostering environmental health.
Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, outlined how NIFA plays a pivotal role. She mentioned, “USDA NIFA is deeply involved in multiple facets like research, education, and extending knowledge to reduce food wastage. Our grant programs resonate with the USDA’s overarching priorities, which include climate change impacts, ensuring food security, fortifying rural economies, and promoting racial justice and equity.”
Since 2017, a cumulative amount of $123.5 million has been channeled by NIFA across 527 projects that center on food wastage. The fresh infusion of $25 million will bolster several of NIFA’s foundational programs.
Part of the funding will boost the Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grants Program. Its main objectives include reducing food wastage, efficiently distributing surplus food, and forging links between producers, providers, and recovery organizations. This provides communities with a stake in food system decisions and nurtures local food markets that benefit the community, spurring economic growth and enhancing food and nutrition security.
For the fiscal year 2023 alone, NIFA has earmarked $4.3 million for 12 CFP projects. Each project aligns seamlessly with the program’s goals, ensuring food stays in the human food chain and saving resources and money.
Dr. Manjit K. Misra, the NIFA Director, emphasized the program’s impact: “The initiatives buoyed by this funding are paramount in NIFA’s repertoire spanning agriculture, food safety, and nutrition. The emphasis is on enhancing nutritional health from a grassroots level, starting in the classroom and extending to the broader community, all while spotlighting minimizing food wastage.”
Among the noteworthy projects are initiatives by Aloha Harvest in Hawaii, Oko Urban Farms Inc. in New York, and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Maine. These projects encompass a variety of strategies, ranging from food rescue operations and the integration of aquaponics for food production to the establishment of community-run cooperative markets.
NIFA’s Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program (FASLP) will also benefit, mainly focusing on teaching students about preventing food wastage in school settings. Examples of this initiative include student-led composting projects in Alabama and community-wide composting and food recovery programs in Connecticut.
Jean Buzby, the USDA Food Loss, and Waste Liaison, encapsulated the essence of this funding, stating, “This added investment will yield multiple beneficial results. Supported grants will trim the volume of wasted excess food, ensuring nutritious foods reach those in need. This is undeniably a dual victory.”
The residual funds are allocated for upcoming collaborations with entities like the National 4-H Council and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. This partnership between NIFA and OCE epitomizes the USDA’s ambition to revamp the American food system, benefiting consumers, farmers, and rural communities.
In the broader perspective, the USDA’s endeavors under the Biden-Harris administration encompass a holistic transformation of America’s food ecosystem. The focus spans multiple facets: resilience in local and regional food production, equitable markets, food safety and accessibility, support for sustainable and climate-smart agricultural practices, and substantial investments in rural infrastructure and clean energy.
Image provided by the USDA