Jackie Suggitt: Leading the Charge on Food Waste Reduction for Businesses Across the Supply Chain


Jackie Suggitt: Leading the Charge on Food Waste Reduction for Businesses Across the Supply Chain

March 6, 2024

“ReFED Profiles'' takes a peek behind the curtain to introduce you to the ReFED team members working on critical projects in support of our mission to catalyze the food system toward evidence-based action to stop wasting food. By illuminating the people behind our biggest initiatives, we hope to shine a light on the talented minds, community collaboration, and tremendous passion that goes into our work.

Jackie Suggitt joined ReFED in 2018 as the organization’s first Director of Business Initiatives. After studying public health in college – “I wanted to be the next Paul Farmer,” Jackie says about her time vaccinating remote village populations in Ghana – she returned to her hometown of Bentonville, AR, to intern with the Walmart Foundation. Her focus with Walmart was initially on food recovery, health, and nutrition grants, work that eventually led her to Walmart’s Sustainability team as their lead on sustainable nutrition. It was here that she first encountered the issue of food waste.

“I spent a lot of my academic and professional career knowing all of the food access statistics by heart, so I really struggled to understand how these two realities could coexist – food waste and food insecurity,” says Jackie. “I was drawn to ReFED, because it gave me the opportunity to tackle both the social and environmental aspects of this issue.”

For several years now, food waste has been labeled as a systemic issue, something that happens at each step of the food supply chain. But for Jackie – who leads ReFED’s newly launched Business Services program and ReFED’s partnerships with both the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment (PCFWC) and the U.S. Food Waste Pact – how food is wasted goes beyond the life cycle of the product. “Food waste that happens at one point in the supply chain is often impacted by behaviors, policies, and decisions at other points in the supply chain. The complexity that these cross-sector connections present means that we need to have collaborative solutions to have any real impact on food waste.”

This focus on collaboration is the cornerstone of her work with the U.S. Food Waste Pact, the country’s first national voluntary agreement for food businesses to accelerate action on food waste reduction. The Pact gives business signatories the opportunity to measure and report data annually, collaborate in pre-competitive working groups, and participate in intervention projects that test and scale high-impact food waste solutions. This collaborative model was first tested by the PCFWC, which has continued to see success in its work with jurisdictions and food businesses along the West Coast of North America. “It was a dream since day one of that project back in 2018 to see that model scale nationally,” says Jackie about the two initiatives’ connection to each other. “The existence of the Pact speaks volumes to the time and effort put in by the jurisdictions and business partners of the PCFWC and the success its model has generated.”

With these programs and the maturation of the food industry as a whole when it comes to addressing the issue of food waste, Jackie is spearheading ReFED’s Business Services program, a set of products and services directed at helping waste-generating businesses prioritize and scale solutions to their unique needs. “We’ve become a lot more strategic and intentional about where we can uniquely add value in helping businesses accelerate solutions adoption,” Jackie explains. “With offerings like Custom Solutions Roadmaps, cross-functional strategy sessions, and business-specific trainings, we’re able to build the internal business case and accountability structure to run food waste reduction programs, remove barriers to action, foster creativity, and open doors for collaboration and partnership across the food system.”

While Jackie and each of these programs sit under ReFED’s larger umbrella of Capital, Innovation & Engagement, there is one thing that provides the foundation for all of their success: data. “Data is and always has been core to ReFED’s work,” says Jackie. “Our Business Services program and the Pact are core parts of the Capital, Innovation, & Engagement team’s broader mandate to use our data and insights to drive action and accelerate food waste reduction.” And according to Jackie, not only can data tell us, in dollars, the value being left on the table when businesses waste food, but data’s real value comes from “building a business case and prioritizing solutions.” It’s this application of the data to real businesses that will make the difference in reducing food waste, according to Jackie.

“One thing I personally hope to see in the near future is a shift in priority from piloting solutions to scaling solutions,” Jackie details about the future of food waste reduction. “We have so many tested, proven, and retested solutions that can and need to be taken to scale to start having a meaningful impact on our national and global food waste footprint.” In addition to the programs that Jackie oversees, ReFED's Catalytic Grant Fund – which catalyzes capital to scale solutions in different sectors through rolling open calls – and ReFED’s Insights Engine – a collection of tools designed to help businesses calculate and understand the basics about their own food waste – are two more initiatives that aim to provide infrastructure that businesses can use to implement and scale solutions.

Jackie’s excitement for the future lies in how much she’s seen the food waste movement grow in her six years at ReFED. “Now when I mention that I work on food waste, polite nods and smiles have transitioned to impassioned responses about personal experiences or individual research friends and family have done on the topic.” She says that a growing public awareness and a steady rise of investment – including ReFED’s own transformational grant from Ballmer Group – are game-changing when it comes to reducing food waste.

And while she’s got a lot on her own proverbial plate – we didn’t even mention that she manages ReFED’s Advisory Council – she’s always interested in hearing from organizations that are ready to take the next step in their food waste reduction journey. Whether a business wants to show leadership in the movement by joining the U.S. Food Waste Pact or it’s ready for action-oriented data and strategy through the Business Services program, Jackie says this: “We may not have a silver bullet, but we also aren’t sitting here waiting for viable solutions. We have them already, and we’re ready to scale them to meet each business’s unique needs.”

More ReFED Profiles:

ReFED is a national nonprofit working to end food loss and waste across the food system by advancing data-driven solutions to the problem. ReFED leverages data and insights to highlight supply chain inefficiencies and economic opportunities; mobilizes and connects people to take targeted action; and catalyzes capital to spur innovation and scale high-impact initiatives. ReFED’s goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow.

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