In the United States, nearly 40% of all food produced is never eaten. This anomaly results in lost resources, economic costs to businesses and households, decreased food security, and negative climate impacts.
With the United Nations moving toward an ambitious goal of halving food waste by 2030, a new $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be used to establish the first national academic research network on wasted food in the United States.
Brian Roe, a professor of agricultural economics in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), will serve as a co-principal investigator along with four colleagues from American University, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The project, Multiscale RECIPES for Sustainable Food Systems, officially kicks off on Oct. 1. RECIPES is short for Resilient, Equitable, and Circular Innovations With Partnership and Education Synergies.
“At Ohio State, we are excited to lead the RECIPES network’s development and administration of a quarterly tracking survey of household food waste in the United States,” said Roe. “Being able to analyze the trends, patterns, and responses across different households over time will provide novel insights into what interventions will be most effective in reducing waste and supporting circular solutions.”
The network will deepen the understanding of how the causes of wasted food are interconnected and how they intersect with other regional systems beyond food. Researchers will take a systems approach to improving data on wasted food, with the goal of designing and strengthening sustainable solutions to reducing food waste.
While American University is taking the lead on the five-year project, it will engage communities in California and the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast regions. Researchers from 14 partner institutions will also be involved, including the Maryland Institute College of Art, World Wildlife Fund, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, University of Albany, Louisiana State University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, Duke University, and the University of California-Davis.
“Network researchers at Louisiana State University and Pennington Biomedical ResearchCenter will enhance the ability to measure the food types and amounts from everyday photographs, which is surprisingly difficult to do with current technology,” Roe said. “This will help both food waste and nutrition scholars to generate high-quality data to assess interventions.”
Ohio State University