Lee advocates for reducing food waste in Maine

Up to forty percent of food produced in the U.S. is never eaten.

In Maine’s rural farms and communities, the food waste challenge begins at the farm with one third of edible crops being plowed under by machinery annually.

Next, transportation difficulties, weather challenges, the demise of Maine’s food storage, and processing infrastructure have all led to additional food losses.

In its final stages, food has achieved its objective of being purchased. Food that has moved outside of the commercial food chain and into the hands of the consumer is not considered surplus, but the uneaten portion inevitably becomes food waste and ends up in landfills.

To help address this issue, the University of Maine launched Food Rescue Maine this past summer, a statewide education and action campaign funded by a grant from Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Susanne Lee is Food Rescue Maine project lead and a faculty fellow at the University of Maine Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability. She is a vocal advocate for the implementation of solutions to the food waste problem.

Lee spoke with Maine Public about food waste and the climate change-related threats it poses to Maine in September. She says that in Maine 97 to 99% of food waste is landfilled and points to Vermont, a state that completely banned organic waste in 2020. Their tough stance has resulted in a dramatic increase in food donations. Beyond addressing a dire environmental impact, reducing food waste can have a direct benefit for communities.

For larger population centers, such as in the Portland area, an increase in food donations would have an immense impact. Food banks rely on the generosity of citizens and businesses to help feed residents in need.

Programs like Food Rescue Maine are essential in tackling the issue. The program implements research-based solutions, with a goal of helping reduce Maine’s food waste by 50% by 2030.

Contact: gateway@maine.edu