ReFED, a data-driven guide for businesses, government, funders, and nonprofits to collectively reduce food waste at scale, has just launched two new important tools: Policy Finder and Innovator Database.
Food Tank had an opportunity to talk with executive director Chris Cochran about the release of the Policy Finder and Innovator Database, to discover how these new tools will help efficiently and effectively reduce food waste from multiple points in the food chain. These two comprehensive tools will allow businesses and governments to explore best practices that can help turn the food waste problem into an opportunity for impact.
Food Tank (FT): How did you identify the need for ReFED’s new Policy Finder and Innovator Database tools?
Chris Cochran (CC): The food system is incredibly complicated and many food waste reduction solutions exist. Last year, we published our Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste, identifying the most impactful solutions to help stakeholders prioritize their efforts and put the country on track to meet the broader national EPA and USDA goal of 50 percent food waste reduction by 2030. These include common sense policy change, business model and technology innovation, consumer education, and financing. We developed our Policy Finder and Innovator Database as extensions of The Roadmap to help connect and educate stakeholders about what—and who—is working around the country to reduce food waste.
FT: How does ReFED’s new Policy Finder tool work, and how will users be able to engage with it?
CC: Developed in partnership with Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Policy Finder enables food businesses, city and state government, and nonprofits to better navigate federal, state, and municipal laws on liability protection, tax incentives, animal feed, and waste bans. The Policy Finder features an interactive map so users can research current federal and state food waste policies. Additionally, the tool will help users discover recommendations for policy improvements to encourage greater food waste prevention, recovery, and recycling efforts.
FT: What will the Innovator Database highlight about individuals and organizations tackling food waste?
CC: More than 400 commercial and nonprofit organizations are turning the problem of food waste into an opportunity for economic, social, and environmental impacts. The Database enables users to explore the dynamic and expanding food waste innovation sector, with innovators categorized by solution type, organizational status, and geography. ReFED will use existing insights and new data gleaned from the database to identify trends, growth areas, and gaps in food waste innovation, ultimately helping drive development of more efficient, scalable solutions.
FT: How will these new tools help tackle the food waste problem more efficiently and effectively?
CC: These tools will help prioritize action by identifying patterns in food waste reduction efforts and by connecting stakeholders who are already investing resources. The Policy Finder identifies explicit opportunities to simplify federal and state policy to prevent food waste. For example, the tool shows that 43 states could remove burdensome date labeling restrictions, saving consumers and businesses more than US$29 billion per year. Additionally, the Innovator Database shows that the fastest growing solution areas include donation coordination and transportation, creating new food products, and secondary marketplaces for food that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. By drawing these connections and uncovering patterns in existing food waste efforts, stakeholders will be better informed to take more strategic and impactful action.
FT: How can these tools enhance different stakeholders—businesses, foundations, investors, and governments—approaches to tackling food waste?
Because the food system is complex and situational, we know that to reach our goals, we need to address food waste at every broken link on the food supply chain and prioritize the most impactful solution for each player across the food industry. Many stakeholders don’t know where to begin or how to streamline their efforts to make the biggest impact. The new ReFED tools will build upon existing resources by more clearly identifying opportunities for impact. For example, the ReFED Roadmap estimates that of the US$18 billion in new financing needed to achieve a 20 percent food waste reduction in the U.S., US$800 million will come from private early-stage and growth equity, and US$1 billion from philanthropic impact investments. Most innovators in ReFED’s database are for-profit (70 percent) with services offered nationally (55 percent), representing an emerging opportunity. Overall, investment in food waste solutions is projected to return US$100 billion in economic value over a decade and create 15,000 new jobs.
These tools will empower policymakers, nonprofits, innovators, and investors to make smart decisions—using insight rather than instinct—to invest in new innovations and proven solutions that work across the food system to unlock bottlenecks and accelerate food waste reduction.