Last time you opened your refrigerator, was there any food inside that was so old you had to throw it away before eating it? That’s food waste.

America is known worldwide as a country that is guilt of wasting tons, literally (millions of) tons of food. Every year, American consumers, businesses, and farms spend $218 billion growing, processing, transporting and disposing food that is never eaten. 52 million tons of it are typically sent to landfills. Another 10 million tons are discarded or left unharvested on farms.

When we have food waste it affects major aspects of our lives, and parts of the environment, which you might not of realized when you are throwing food away. Food waste consumes 21% of all fresh water, 1% of all fertilizer, 18% of cropland and 21% of landfill volume.

In response to such a grave issue, numerous organizations have been established to help eliminate food waste. And not only specific non-profits, but companies you already know—Shake Shack, Panera Bread, Twitter, and many others—are working in in cooperation with said organizations and changing their actions to fight food waste. 

So who exactly is fighting to bring an end to the planet's food waste?

Many have decided to take action, and not just in their own homes, but through the powerful reach of organizations built and grown specifically to eliminate humans' food waste problem for good.

Food Recovery Network

A few college students at University of Maryland were horrified by the amount of food being thrown out in dining halls. It motivated them to found Food Recovery Network, an organization that creates recovery programs on college campuses to help eliminate food waste in dining halls.

DC Central Kitchen

DC Central Kitchen is a food distribution service based in Washington D.C. The organization delivers free meals to homeless shelters, transitional homes and nonprofit organizations.

They also have food recycling programs, which allow them to turn leftovers and surplus food into nutritional meals for those in need. They also offer culinary training for unemployed adults and healthy school lunches for low-income students.

Excess NYC

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Photo by Liz Green

This organization investigates large amounts of food waste in urban areas. They work to divert food from landfills by transporting waste and repurposing it to feed people or sending it to composts. They mainly help small businesses to change their food waste disposal practices.

Forgotten Harvest

Forgotten Harvest collects surplus prepared and perishable foods from 800 sources, including grocery stores, fruit and vegetable markets, restaurants, caterers, dairies, farmers, and wholesale food contributors. They then share it with 280 emergency food providers in the Detroit area.

What corporations (that we already know and love) are determined to change their ways?

You may not have heard of the organizations mentioned above, but they aren't the only ones making a difference. There are big corporations—who you are undoubtedly familiar with—who have also taken a stand against food waste. And they are determined to fix what is broken in the system of food distribution. 

Shake Shack

A photo posted by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on

Everyone's favorite NYC burger joint is also trying to fight food waste. Last summer, world renowned chef Dan Barber decided to serve up a different kind of burger at Shake Shack.

He created a patty from leftover juicing pulp, ketchup from beets deemed too ugly to sell and day old bread and deemed is WastED burger (the ED stands for education).

Barber did this during a period of time where he himself was serving leftovers and food waste at his own restaurant, and endeavor that Shake Shack has continued to work on ever since.  


One of the most well known stores in the country is Walmart, and they're now embracing the sale of "ugly" fruits and vegetables to help fight food waste and hunger. (Something that came about after harsh public criticism regarding their now former food wasting practices and store policies.)

Walmart recently admitted that in the past it has contributed to the unreasonable expectations from retailers and consumers about what food should look like. However, those who are experts in gardening know that the ugliest produce is often the most scrumptious, not the other way around.

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley, a place known for its free food, is trying to hone in on its own food waste issues. An organization called Food Runners is working to reduce food waste and raise awareness of the problem in the tech-dominated area of Northern California, and has partnered with companies such as Google, Twitter, and Airbnb to pick up leftover food and deliver it to those in need.

On their companywide days of service, Twitter employees assemble thousands of sandwiches for Food Runners. Tech companies and start-ups in San Francisco know they have the opportunity to find innovative and new ways to fight food waste. And some are taking it.

Furthermore, as Food Runners delivers 5,000 meals a day from 5,000 businesses throughout San Francisco, companies such as Panera Bread, Kroger, and Daren Restaurants are trying to reflect the same changes, as they donate excess food and raise awareness on the issue.

Coming Together To Fight Food Waste

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Caroline Morano

Companies around the country, and around the world, are fighting food waste, whether their mission is to eliminate it all together in the world, or if they want to try and eliminate their own. It sounds harder than it seems, as we've all thrown food away without thinking twice about what exactly that means for the rest of the world. 

And because so many companies feel so strongly about eliminating food waste, ReFED was created. ReFED is a collaboration of over 30 businesses, nonprofits, foundations and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the U.S.

ReFED wants to unlock new philanthropic and investment capital, along with technology, business and policy innovation, which is projected to create tens of thousands of new jobs, and recover billions of meals annually for the hungry. They also plan to reduce national water use and greenhouse gas emissions. ReFED was formed in 2015 to create a roadmap to reduce food waste in U.S. and created the first ever national economic study and action plan to tackling food waste at this scale.

There are plenty of ways you can make a difference eliminating your own food waste and that of others. Even little choices like reducing your meal portion sizes and tossing your food before its expiration date can make a huge difference. You can either be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution.