- Reducing food waste could help solve hunger
- A step towards sustainability in Washington state
By Madeline Coats
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Three representatives from the Democratic caucus are sponsoring a bill to work towards reducing food waste by consumers and grocery stores in Washington state.
House Bill 1114 suggests a plan to fight hunger and reduce environmental impacts of wasting food. The bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Beth Doglio, Vandana Slatter and Jake Fey and discussed at a public hearing on Jan. 17.
Rep. Doglio, D-Thurston, aims to combine the two issues of rising sea levels and food insecurity in an effort to become a more environmentally sustainable state.
“This is a win-win bill,” said Doglio at the hearing.
HB 1114 establishes a goal to reduce food waste in the state 50 percent by 2030, compared to levels from 2015. The goal begins by directing the Department of Ecology to consult with the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture to develop a plan by 2020 to reduce wasted food.
According the the bill, food waste results from the storage, preparation, handling, cooking, selling or serving of food for human consumption. Wasted food is defined as the edible portion of food waste.
The bill includes a prevention goal related to edible food. The plan must include strategies to reduce waste, disperse edible food to food banks and other productive uses, including animal feed, compost and energy production.
Zach Stratton, Corporate Affairs and Internal Communications Manager at QFC, testified in support of the bill. He explained his grocery firm’s zero hunger, zero waste initiative to eliminate food waste across the company. The grocery company donates more than two million pounds of edible food.
“One out of eight Americans struggle with hunger,” said Stratton at the hearing. “And yet more than 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. every year is uneaten.”
One concern voiced at the hearing centered around health department rules across the state regarding which foods can be donated, since many food banks do not accept perishable foods.
According to the Washington state Department of Health, licensed food establishments are encouraged to donate leftover foods to food distribution organizations. The department notes that these organizations are not allowed to accept most types of homemade foods.
Jan Gee, president of the Washington Food Industry Association, hopes to help reduce food waste by educating consumers to buy appropriate amounts of food.
The grocery industry is an important partner in improving sustainability, Gee said at the hearing.