If you need proof of our changing global climate, look no further than your local grocery store. With rising concerns over food insecurity and water shortages threatening crop production, retail food outlets are facing increased scrutiny of their daily practices.
The French National Assembly recently returned a unanimous vote on a measure intended to eliminate senseless and costly food waste. Larger grocery stores in the nation must now donate their unspoiled food to local food bank charities or face steep fines and in some cases, jail time.
Annual food waste estimates are as high as 7.1 million tons in France alone, with 67 percent attributed to consumers, 15 percent to restaurants and 11 percent to the shops targeted by this new law. This seems a drop in the bucket compared to the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted worldwide.
The new law falls in line with the grassroots efforts of Gars’pilleurs, an informal group of food activists from Lyon, who have been donning gardening gloves and dumpster diving since 2012. Their food retrieval efforts have rescued some 130 kilograms (286.6 pounds) of potential food waste and redistributed it, free of cost, to their community.
The U.S. has three existing federal laws that encourage big grocers to donate with tax incentives, liability protections, and redistribution schemes. In the absence of sweeping legislation similar to France’s, dozens of U.S. activist groups and community organizations are stepping up to fill the gaps. In drought-stricken California, Crop Mobster uses social media and apps to “spread the word quickly about local food excess and surplus from any supplier in the food chain, get healthy food to those in need, help local businesses recover costs, prevent food waste and connect our community in new and fun ways.”
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