During a recent event on Capitol Hill, lawmakers, policy experts, and advocates fighting food waste called on Congress to pass legislation that can help keep surplus food out of landfills and redirect it to those in need. The event was organized by WW, Bread for the World, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), Food Tank, and The Healthy Living Coalition, among others.
“I think food is a fundamental human right. Of all the things to worry about, people shouldn’t have to worry about access to good, nutritious food,” says Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a sponsor of the bipartisan Bill, known as the Food Donation Improvement Act.
Emily Broad Leib, Director of Harvard’s FLPC explains that, if passed, the Bill will expand protections for businesses that have excess food to donate but fear liability. It will also provide incentives for donors and enable organizations to give surplus food directly to families in need instead of going through a nonprofit partner.
Leaders from food rescue and emergency feeding organizations from across the country believe that the Bill’s passing will help them fulfill their mission. “We want nothing to stand in the way of being able to receive that donated food,” Jada Hoerr, Chief Resource Officer for the Midwest Food Bank, says.
Business leaders also voiced their support, arguing that they must step up to help address food insecurity. “We’re here today because the private sector also has a role in improving America’s food system,” says Sima Sistani, CEO of WW International. WW is among the dozens of food businesses and organizations that released an open letter last year, calling on Congress to pass the Food Donation Improvement Act.
In 2021, Feeding America estimates that 53 million people—or one in six—in the United States received food assistance from the charitable sector. At the same time, more than one-third of food in the country goes to waste, according to the nonprofit ReFED.
“We are in a hunger crisis,” says Reverand Eugene Cho, President and CEO of Bread for the World. “We need to be shouting that as loud as we can.”
And while activists acknowledge that the Bill alone will not solve hunger, it represents an important step in reducing food insecurity and protecting the environment. Chef and advocate Tom Colicchio also argues that preventing food waste is a matter of showing respect for the food that nourishes eaters and the workers who produce it. By wasting food, he says, “we’re devaluing not just the food, but we’re devaluing the people who are responsible for feeding us.”
Since its introduction, the Bill has garnered the support of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In a video statement of support, Representative Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), a co-sponsor of the Bill, echoed the words of many of the event’s speakers: “Making it easier for restaurants and grocery stores, farms, and other businesses to donate food to their neighbors is just plain common sense.”
Watch the full event below:
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