Why would Philabundance, a hunger relief organization, care about the city's Zero Waste and Litter Campaign? Consider these grim statistics:

  • 40 percent of all food produced in the United States goes to waste.

  • One in eight Americans — and one in five Philadelphians — — doesn't know where their next meal is coming from, or if they'll have one at all.

It is unimaginable that we waste so much food while so many people go hungry. That is why Philabundance and the Kenney administration are speaking out about tackling these inextricably linked challenges to create a more sustainable city, and there's a role you can play, too.

The Zero Waste and Litter Action Plan is much more than a way to clean up the streets and cut down on litter. The Philadelphia Streets Department estimates that 18.3 percent of the waste that ends up in local landfills annually is from food waste. About 78 percent of that food waste is from commercial sources, including restaurants, groceries, and other businesses.

Imagine if we rescued more food from those commercial sources before it became waste.

Philabundance was founded in 1984 on a model of rescuing perfectly good leftover food from exactly those sources. Thirty-three years later, it distributes 24 million pounds of food a year, of which 17 million pounds is food that would have gone to waste because it wasn't pretty enough to sell, had a confusing date label, or was from overstocked shelves.

There are many types of waste and it can occur at all levels, from your kitchen to the city's daily activities, which includes commerce and tourism. One negative outcome of otherwise successful city events is waste. That's why Philabundance and the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet have teamed up with Food Connect and others to rescue perfectly good excess food from events such as the Democratic National Convention, the NFL Draft, and the Broad Street Run. This is part of Philadelphia's larger zero-waste strategy, and we hope that coordinators of events large and small can take advantage of the new zero-waste options that the city's special-events permit now offers. Restaurateurs and business owners who want to donate their excess food to those in need can download the Food Connect App.

For individuals who want to cut down food waste, we encourage you to start a backyard composting system or to join one of the growing service- or community-based compost programs in your neighborhood.

Additionally, for individuals and policy makers who want to make a difference by advocating for new laws for food rescue, Philabundance, in collaboration with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, published a report this week, "Moving Food Waste Forward: Policy Recommendations for Next Steps in Pennsylvania." It outlines best practices from across the Unites States that could be adapted to Pennsylvania to reduce food waste, promote safe food recovery practices, and generally encourage a more sustainable, straightforward food system.

These calls to action don't provide a simple solution because one doesn't exist, but they do provide goals we can work together to achieve.

As the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet's motto goes, "Zero Starts With One." It will take every resident and business and restaurant owner, working together, to ensure that we stop wasting food in a city where too many people are going hungry.

Glenn Bergman is executive director of Philabundance. gbergman@philabundance.org
Michael DiBerardinis is managing director of the City of Philadelphia. cleanphl@phila.gov