The U.S. Food Waste Challenge calls on organizations and businesses across the food supply chain to join the fight against food waste. In advance of World Health Day on April 7th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reaffirming its commitment to reduce food waste with the launch of a new food application.
Developed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, this new application informs users on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality. By helping users understand food storage, the application empowers consumers to choose storage methods that extend the shelf life of their items. Users will be able to keep items fresh longer than if they were not stored properly.
The FoodKeeper application offers users valuable storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more. Every year, billions of pounds of food go to waste in the U.S. because consumers are not sure of its quality or safety. USDA estimates that 21 percent of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. USDA also estimates that at the retail and consumer level, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month.
"This application will help reduce food waste by showing users how to store foods properly, and reminding them to use items before they are likely to spoil," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This can help consumers save money and reduce the amount of safe food going to landfills."
The application features include the following:
- Specific product pages for more than 400 items. These offer users storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
- Cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. Cooking advice is offered to ensure users prepare these products in ways that eliminate foodborne bacteria.
- Calendar integration, which allows users to enter the purchase date for products and offers notifications when products are nearing the end of their recommended storage date.
- Users can search the application with swipe gestures or voice control.
- If a user has not found the information they are looking for about a product, they can submit a question to USDA using the 'Ask Karen' feature of the application. 'Ask Karen' is USDA's 24/7 virtual representative. The system provides information about preventing foodborne illness and safe food handling, storage, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.
- The application is available for Android and Apple devices.
The application is part of a larger effort between USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Launched in 2013, the Food Waste Challenge calls on participants across the food chain – farms, agricultural processors, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments – to join efforts to:
- Reduce food waste by improving product development, storage, shopping/ordering, marketing, labeling, and cooking methods;
- Recover food waste by connecting potential food donors to hunger relief organizations like food banks and pantries; and,
- Recycle food waste to feed animals or to create compost, bioenergy, and natural fertilizers.
By joining the Challenge, organizations and businesses demonstrate their commitment to reducing food waste, helping to feed the hungry in their communities, and reducing the environmental impact of wasted food. The Challenge's inventory of activities will help disseminate information about the best practices to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste and stimulate the development of more of these practices. The FoodKeeper application will help reduce the amount of food going to landfills and minimize resources lost producing food that doesn't end up eaten, enhancing the goals of the Food Waste Challenge.