Households are the greatest source of food waste in the US, making this a critical area for action. In 2021, nearly half of all surplus food across the supply chain was generated by consumers, for reasons ranging from spoilage, concerns about date labels, fear that something has been left out too long, and simply not wanting leftovers. While not understanding proper food management is a big cause, much of the food waste coming from consumers occurs because of decisions made by other actors upstream in the supply chain.
"Reshaping consumer environments" means driving consumers toward better food management and less waste by creating shopping, cooking, and eating environments that promote those behaviors. There’s also a big opportunity to shift our overall culture to place more value on food and to make sure that people truly understand the implications of food waste for our environment, economy, and more. Retail, foodservice establishments, and homes are environments where the narrative around food purchasing, consumption, and management can be shifted. In dining environments, solutions that encourage less wasteful consumption patterns can include offering smaller portion sizes, using smaller plates, or removing trays in efforts to minimize consumers taking more than they will eat. In shopping environments, solutions include integrating meal planning support into customer assistance or creating promotions that don’t promote over-purchasing. More broadly, awareness and education campaigns are an important solution to help shift our culture towards greater appreciation for our food and the resources that went into it.
Nearly two-thirds of the prospective funding for reshaping consumer environments draws from Corporate Finance and Spending, in which businesses stand to gain brand and reputation benefits through improving their customers’ food management habits. Government Grants can play a significant role in funding local and national consumer campaigns. Private Equity and Venture Capital can fund the remaining need to further the innovation of in-home food management technologies that help consumers manage their food better, ultimately leading to less waste.