In January, the Environmental Protection Agency launched the Food Steward's Pledge, a program aimed at engaging religious groups to reduce food waste and redirect excess food to those in need.
The program is part of the EPA’s overall plan to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030, and engages all faiths in the common goal of feeding the hungry, NPR reports.
Groups that take the pledge can help decrease food waste in a number of ways, starting by donating leftover food from potlucks and community gatherings to food banks. They can also hold educational seminars with their congregations and within the larger community to teach people how to avoid wasting food and how to compost, rather than throw away, the food that ends up being inedible.
According to government figures, over 1,200 calories per American per day are wasted, amounting to 133 billion pounds of food waste each year.
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A major cause of food waste is the disposal of "expired" products that are still edible, which occurs at home, in stores and on farms.
One way to combat this problem is to enlist the help of religious groups in transporting food that would otherwise be thrown away to food banks and other organizations that can get the food to those who need it.
"We can make leaps and bounds in this process if we tackle this problem more systemically and bring a broader number of stakeholders to the table," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told NPR.
"We are tapping into incredibly motivated and dedicated people [by engaging religious communities]," she added.
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About 48 million Americans are currently struggling with hunger. McCarthy said this program would help alleviate some of that disparity.
Food waste also contributes to global warming, as methane from landfills -- of which food is the single largest component -- adds to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.