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Industry Renews Calls for Food Waste Reduction

WASHINGTON — Food retailers and suppliers were urged to accelerate their efforts in reducing food waste as a joint industry initiative moves into its second year.

Speakers at the Food Marketing Institute/Grocery Manufacturers Association Sustainability Summit here cited notable industry progress but said more work is needed.

The speakers are leaders on the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, created about a year ago, which is focused on increasing the amount of food donated for anti-hunger efforts and reducing the amount of food sent to landfills. In addition to retailers and suppliers, the alliance includes leaders in the restaurant industry and partners from the waste and anti-hunger communities.

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“There’s still much more work to be done, that’s what the alliance is focused on,” said Michael Hewett, director, Environmental and Sustainability Programs, Publix Super Markets.

He cited estimates of 80 billion pounds of food waste being thrown away each year, and said preliminary survey research shows retailers and suppliers are each making progress by diverting food waste from landfills, but in different ways that reflect the different natures of their businesses.

The alliance partners with Feeding America in efforts to provide more product supply to food banks.

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“At a time when help we’re getting from the federal government to feed the hungry is waning, even though donations have increased significantly from manufacturers and retailers, the amount of food that Feeding America has to purchase to make up the shortfall has increased as well,” Hewett said. “So there’s still much more to be done.”

Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer, General Mills, said the alliance looks for emerging, innovative solutions to the challenges. Among examples it has found are college students that proactively redirected excess cafeteria food to homeless shelters and food banks, and a food waste broker that redistributes items to achieve better value propositions.

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