“Some have found that our nation’s rate of food waste is as high as 40 percent and the question remains, what can we do about it? That’s what this task force is all about,” Legislature Chairman Alden Wolfe said.
Task Force members will work to identify ways to reduce and recover food waste for the benefit of hungry neighbors, taxpayers, local businesses and the environment, Wolfe said.
Martin Brand, Region 3 Director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, praised the county for its willingness to seek solutions. “Rockland County is a leader in addressing this challenge for all of us who want to manage the large volume of waste generated by our society in a sustainable way,” Brand said. “Not only for the environment but for all of you who are trying to increase food security for our friends and neighbors.”
New York is working to develop a statewide strategy for addressing food waste reduction and recovery so that the materials are valued not as waste, but as resources for the greatest good, Brand said.
Already, the state is working to provide combined waste and energy audits to grocery stores and large food generators to identify the best ways to reduce food waste and increase energy efficiency, and to divert excess healthy food to food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and other food rescue agencies, Brand said.
The state encourages animal feeding where it is appropriate and also additional recycling through composting and anaerobic digestion. There are several projects throughout the state that will use food
scraps to create energy, Brand said.
Judy Ann Mitchell, Region 2 Chief of the Sustainability and Multi-Media Programs Branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also lauded the county for its new undertaking. “EPA commends Rockland for taking on this initiative, not only in being the first Legislative body in the country to join hands with EPA in becoming an Endorser of our Food Recovery Challenge, but for walking the walk and establishing the Food Waste task force, the first of its kind in our region,” Mitchell said.
She said about 14 percent of U.S. households don’t know where their next meal is coming from; food waste accounts for more than $150 billion of wasted resources; food waste has increased from about 30 percent in 1974 to about 40 percent today. Mitchell also noted that of the 37 million tons of food waste generated in 2013, just 5 percent was diverted from landfills.