General Mills Joins Nat’l Effort To Reduce Food Waste

General Mills Joins Nat’l Effort To Reduce Food Waste

The company is a founding partner of a new national initiative that aims to cut down on the millions of tons of food that go uneaten each year.

In an effort to reduce food waste, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge—and Golden Valley-based General Mills, Inc., is one of the initiative’s founding partners.

The project aims to reduce the amount of food in landfills, combat hunger in the United States, and recycle discarded food for the purpose of produce composting, animal feed, and energy generation, among other uses.

The USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said they are joining forces with food processors, manufacturers, retailers, community entities, and other government agencies, and each organization will set its own objectives for reducing waste. The USDA aims to recruit 400 partner organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020.

General Mills spokeswoman Bridget Christenson told Twin Cities Business that the company “signed on as an early participant because we’re already doing a lot of work to reduce food waste,” and it was “a natural fit for us to be a part of this program.”

Nearly 34 million tons of food waste were disposed of in landfills or incinerators in 2010, according to the EPA.

General Mills plans to reduce its solid waste by 50 percent by 2015, from a 2005 baseline. It has eliminated 40 percent thus far, according to Christenson, who declined to disclose the baseline figure.

Last year, General Mills donated more than 10,800 metric tons of surplus food to U.S. charities, and in the past 14 years, more than $250 million worth of food worldwide.

General Mills is improving its supply-chain network to create faster and more direct routes to hunger-relief charity Feeding America. It aims to supply the charity with not only completed products, but also surplus ingredients or over-runs that can be repackaged or stocked on their shelves—an effort that could save roughly 30 million pounds of waste, according to General Mills.

As part of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, the USDA said it is planning to develop new technologies to reduce food waste, educate consumers about waste and storage, and cut waste in school meal programs. It also aims to increase donations from imported produce that does not meet quality standards, streamline procedures for donating misbranded meat and poultry products, and test a meat-composting program, among other things.

“General Mills is deeply committed to reducing and eliminating food waste at every opportunity, and we recognize this as a critical challenge for both food manufacturers and consumers,” General Mills’ Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Lynch said in a statement. “Food waste sent to landfill is the biggest opportunity for our industries to address hunger in America and lessen our environmental footprint.”

In addition to serving as a founding partner of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, General Mills co-chairs the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, whose objective is to decrease the amount of food dumped in landfills and distribute more food to the hungry.

Joining General Mills as founding partners of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge are New Jersey-based Unilever and the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, which, according to its website, counts among its members Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, Inc.

General Mills is among Minnesota’s 10 largest public companies based on revenue, which totaled $16.7 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year.