The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge this week, calling on others across the food chain – including producer groups, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities, and other government agencies – to join the effort to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste. Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe were joined at the event by representatives from private-sector partners and supporters including Rio Farms, Unilever, General Mills, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Feeding America, and Rock and Wrap It Up!

Food waste in the United States is estimated at roughly between 30 to 40 percent of the food supply. In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants, and homes never made it into people's stomachs. The amount of uneaten food in homes and restaurants was valued at almost $390 per U.S. consumer in 2008, more than an average month's worth of food expenditures.

Food waste the single largest type of waste entering our landfills – Americans throw away up to 40 percent of their food. Addressing this issue not only helps with combating hunger and saving money, but also with combating possible climate change-related impacts, according to EPA.

The goal of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge is to lead a fundamental shift in how we think about and manage food and food waste in this country. The Challenge includes a goal to have 400 partner organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020.

As part of its contribution to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, USDA is initiating a wide range of activities including activities to reduce waste in the school meals program, educate consumers about food waste and food storage, and develop new technologies to reduce food waste. USDA will also work with industry to increase donations from imported produce that does not meet quality standards, streamline procedures for donating wholesome misbranded meat and poultry products, update U.S. food loss estimates at the retail level, and pilot-test a meat-composting program to reduce the amount of meat being sent to landfills from food safety inspection labs.

Through its Food Recovery Challenge, EPA will provide U.S. Food Waste Challenge participants with the opportunity to access data management software and technical assistance (www.epa.gov/smm/foodrecovery/) to help them quantify and improve their sustainable food management practices.

To join the Challenge and learn more about USDA's activities and the activities of those who have already joined, visit: www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/index.htm.

This Food Waste Challenge was a coordinated initiative with World Environmental Day 2013 where this year's theme is Think.Eat.Save focusing on food waste and the related environmental impacts.