Food Cowboy, which uses mobile technology to help food companies route surplus and unsaleable inventory to charities and organic waste to composters, has launched two initiatives to fund startups and technologies that reduce food waste.
The No Waste Promise Alliance and the Food Waste Innovation Fund will together invest up to $75 million a year in public and private sector solutions to food waste, Food Cowboy says.
This is good news for companies and the environment. Food loss and waste costs businesses billions of dollars each year and it generates about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“The scale of the food waste problem in America is enormous,” said Food Cowboy co-founder Barbara Cohen.
Food Cowboy says it will finance its new fund by taking advantage of tax deductions.
Congress recently granted the food industry up to $6 billion in bonus tax deductions as an incentive to donate more food. But they largely go unused because food banks lack the capacity to accept more than a fraction of the inventory that businesses need to dispose of each day.
Beginning this fall, when companies use Food Cowboy to donate inventory they will pay a small commission on the tax benefits for which they qualify. Two-thirds of the fee — up to $50 million a year — will go to Food Cowboy Foundation to help food banks cover the costs of recovering food, adding capacity and developing new service models, such as L.A. Kitchen, which DC Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger launched in 2014, and Daily Table, launched last year by former Trader Joe’s CEO Doug Rauch.
The remaining fees — up to $25 million a year — will be invested in new waste-reducing businesses and technologies, such as companies that deliver “ugly” fruits and vegetables directly to consumers and small scale anaerobic digesters that turn food waste into cooking gas.
The food waste fund comes as the federal government and major companies have published a Call to Action, which identifies current opportunities and challenges in reducing food loss and waste in the US.
Last year, the US government set a goal to cut food waste in half by 2030 — a move widely supported by the retail, food and beverage industries, among others. To reach this goal, the EPA hosted the Food Recovery Summit where organizations across the food chain met to discuss the key challenges in reducing food loss and waste.