NEW YORK, Sept. 16, 2015 – The Obama administration on Wednesday announced the first-ever national food-waste reduction goal, calling for a 50 percent reduction by 2030.

The goal was announced today in New York by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg. As part of the effort, they said the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable and faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste.

"The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste," said Vilsack, noting that the average U.S. family of four leaves more than 2 million calories, worth nearly $1,500, uneaten each year. “Our new reduction goal demonstrates America's leadership on a global level in in getting wholesome food to people who need it, protecting our natural resources, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste."

USDA says food loss and waste accounts for approximately 31 percent — or 133 billion pounds — of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change. Food loss and waste is single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions, the department said. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the U.S.. Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions.

"Let's feed people, not landfills,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the release. “By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations.”

The announcement occurs just one week before world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption. As the global population continues to grow, so does the need for food waste reduction, USDA said.

The U.S. has already taken steps toward the goal. In 2013, USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, creating a platform for leaders and organizations across the food chain to share best practices on ways to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste. By the end of 2014, the U.S. Food Waste Challenge had over 4,000 active participants, well surpassing its initial goal of reaching 1,000 participants by 2020, USDA said.

Other food loss reduction initiatives developed over the past few years include an app to help consumers safely store food and understand food date labels, new guidance to manufacturers on donating misbranded or sub-spec foods, and research on innovative technologies to make reducing food loss and waste cost effective.

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USDA said it is also launching a new consumer education campaign through its Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion with information on food loss and waste facts and reduction tips. Moreover, a new section on will educate consumers about reducing food waste to help stretch household budgets.

The release also noted that USDA and EPA plan to continue to encourage the private sector—food service companies, institutions, restaurants, grocery stores, and more—to set their own aggressive goals for reducing food loss and waste in the months ahead. Organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, which recently approved a new resolution to halve food waste within the operations of its 400 retailer and manufacturer members by 2025, are helping to lead the way, USDA said.