by Tom Vilsack
Across the nation, Americans from all walks of life are taking steps to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. Part of the solution lies in finding innovative new ways to use food that would otherwise by wasted. That's where the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State University, the City of Cleveland, the Dairy Innovation Center and other partners are stepping in to help.
On Sunday, November 24, this new partnership will begin taking waste from FirstEnergy Stadium and turning it into clean, renewable energy. Anaerobic digesters like the one in Cleveland are being built in greater numbers across the nation. In fact, working together with the dairy industry, USDA has provided more than 240 awards since 2009 to construct anaerobic digesters.
Food waste is a big challenge for our nation for many reasons.
First, it's a food security issue. Wholesome food that's wasted could help feed needy families through donations to food pantries and soup kitchens. In 2008, the amount of uneaten food in homes and restaurants was valued at roughly $390 per U.S. consumer -- more than an average month's worth of food expenditures.
Second, food waste is a natural resource issue. In 2010, 133 billion pounds of food in U.S. retail food stores, restaurants, and homes never made it into peoples' stomachs. It takes about 22 million acres of land to produce that much food -- in other words, enough land to cover more than three-fourths of Ohio.
Third, food waste is a climate change issue. Food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste going to landfills -- and those landfills are the third largest source of methane. By reducing the amount of food we toss into the trash, we can help reduce these potent greenhouse gas emissions.
In partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency and a range of private and non-profit partners, USDA has created a new Food Waste Challenge to fight this problem. The Food Waste Challenge encourages folks to do three simple things. First, to find new ways to reduce food loss and waste. Second, to recover unneeded, wholesome food that can help feed those in need. And third, to recycle wasted food as much as possible.
When it comes to reducing food waste, all of us are in this together. I'm proud of the effort being made in Cleveland, and I appreciate the hard work that's gone into this new project at the FirstEnergy Stadium. At USDA, we're committed to combating food waste and making our nation stronger in the process.