Rockefeller Hopes to Help Food Waste Movement Coalesce in 2017

One area of food philanthropy that picked up in 2016 was support for work to reduce food waste in the United States. Food waste as an overarching issue has lagged somewhat in the U.S., compared to Europe, where governments and NGOs have long grappled with the issue.

But momentum has picked up in the past year or so, and a few foundations have made it a top concern. Among the largest is the Rockefeller Foundation, which has extended its $130 million YieldWise initiative stateside. The funder is keeping a close eye on the issue, and hoping to provide it with some infrastructure. 

As a recent Rockefeller blog post on the subject puts it:

As we move into 2017, it’s critical that we strengthen this transition from momentum to movement, and we all have our part to play—as consumers, business and nonprofit leaders, policymakers, innovators, and funders—to make sure that it continues.

While the post emphasizes the importance of a locally driven ground game—as emphasized by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at a recent food conference—one step the foundation hopes will solidify efforts is a new online hub it’s launching next month, called Further With Food. The site is actually a collaborative effort between Rockefeller, the USDA, EPA, and a handful of other organizations like the NRDC and World Wildlife Fund. Partners hope that Further With Food will act as a kind of destination, a centralized location for resources and various community efforts happening all over. 

Rockefeller is backing big grantees like global nonprofit Feedback, national groups like NRDC, and OpenIDEO’s Food Waste Challenge. But there’s also a lot of local action happening in cities like Denver and Austin, where scrappy nonprofits are hacking together solutions. 

Rockefeller’s not the only funder involved, either. Another much smaller foundation having an outsized impact is the Fink Family Foundation, which played a central role in ReFED, a research and education initiative seeking to reduce food waste by 50 percent before 2030. That effort drew 15 other funders, including The Claneil Foundation, Henry P. Kendall Foundation, Pisces Foundation, and Packard. 

There’s movement on the corporate front too, including the Closed Loop Fund and Closed Loop Foundation. Chiefly interested in recycling, it’s expanded into food waste, including an RFP put out in 2016 for food waste solutions. CLF is backed by several corporations, including Coca Cola and Keurig Green Mountain, notably some major offenders in sales of single-use disposal containers.

As we continue to track this issue, it's clear that food waste efforts are cropping up in the highest tiers of industry, foundations big and small, and at the grassroots level. Rockefeller, tapping an approach it’s used before in other emergent areas, is seeking to establish something central for them to hold onto. 

The foundation views food waste as a particularly solvable problem, and while it can’t solve it singlehandedly, maybe it can create some infrastructure to support it wherever it picks up speed.