After a sharp increase in food waste following the outbreak of COVID-19, Dana Gunders, Executive Director of ReFED finds that the rate of food waste in the United States may be steadying.
“When the pandemic first happened there was a lot of extra waste,” Gunders tells Food Tank. She explains that the sudden closures of businesses created bottlenecks in supply chains. As a result, food could not reach people fast enough.
But after several months, Gunders believes that food waste in the country is reaching a new equilibrium. And while occasional supply chains disruptions are still occurring, she believes that the changes the country is seeing may have positive long term implications for the future of food waste.
“I think there are some really promising changes that have happened through [the pandemic] that, in the long run, could lead to less waste,” she tells Food Tank.
Gunders explains that the pandemic has forced many restaurants to shift away from buffet models, a major contributor of food waste. She also says that restaurants, uncertain of their business, are offering smaller menus and, as a result, are keeping smaller inventories.
Gunders also notices behavioral changes among home cooks. As people try to make fewer trips to grocery stores, she says that they are planning meals and working to stretch their food further.
In anticipation of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Food Waste on September 21, the latest episode of “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” explores the consequences of food waste and the organizations that are working to combat it.
Hear from Regina Anderson of the Food Recovery Network and Erica Brooks of the White Pony Express about their organizations’ food recovery efforts. Gunders and Alex Coari, Capital and Innovation Director at ReFED, speak about the recent changes in food waste levels and the ReFED’s work to continue to reduce them further. Then Doug O’Brien of the Global FoodBanking Network discusses the need for public policies to help companies and businesses deliver excess food to those in need.
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