France’s food waste solution is trying to enact change despite flaws

In 2016, France’s parliament unanimously passed a bill requiring that supermarkets donate their leftover edible food to charities. The bill mandates that supermarkets donate to one of France’s 5,000 charities that depend on donations, or else face hefty fines. (francois schnell/Flickr Creative Commons)

There are a few basic necessities to human life on Earth, without which we would not be able to survive. Access to food, clean water, air and shelter are some of the most basic things that humans need to thrive. However, despite the fact that these essentials are necessary for human life, there are many people alive who do not readily have access to at least one of them.

Coming from a stable family with a steady income, I will admit I never had to be overly cautious about rationing my food or wondering where my next meal would come from. Still, I know this is a luxury that many people in our country, and in many others across the world, cannot afford. The demand for food is not one that is ever going to decrease as long as people still populate the planet, and it is naïve to think that we will be able to prevent everybody from ever feeling the effects of hunger. But, while we may not be able to stop the world’s hunger crisis altogether, we may still be able to improve upon our situation by focusing on one aspect of food: waste.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, “up to 40 percent of the food in the United States is never eaten. But at the same time, one in eight Americans struggles to put enough food on the table.” These statistics are alarming. With the enormous quantities of food populating shelves at grocery stores nation-wide, it is hard to picture nearly half of it going to waste. When you then take into account that a large portion of our citizens find it difficult to have enough food, or wonder where their next meal is coming from, it seems almost unacceptable that food, which could be helping those in need, could be just thrown away as worthless and unsellable. But how are we to change a system that is so deeply ingrained in our country? How can we make it possible for this wasted food to land in the hands of people in need?

While America may not currently have the answer to these questions, other places have found solutions. In 2016, France’s parliament unanimously passed a bill requiring that supermarkets donate their leftover edible food to charities. The bill mandates that supermarkets donate to one of France’s 5,000 charities that depend on donations, or else face hefty fines. Of course, like all new rules and regulations, this bill was not passed without flaws. Since its adoption two years ago, France has seen some progress in the resolution of issues with food waste, but it has not come close to solving the problem yet. According to a study done in 2017, approximately one year after the bill had been implemented, in Isère, a French province, less than 24 percent of excess food went to charities.

While there are many possible reasons behind this lack of effectiveness, it is important to remember this is an extremely new bill and is the first of its kind. Due to the disappointing results of its first year, officials are looking into ways to improve the outcomes of the ruling in future years. However, despite the lackluster results, it should be noted that there was still a significant portion of food donated to charities compared to the 66 pounds of food per person that is wasted each year in France. This requirement of food waste in France may not have been perfect to begin with, but very few laws are. Officials are hopeful that in the future the percentage of donated food will rise, and a new perspective on food waste will come along with it.

The United States is far from a solution to the world’s hunger and food waste problems, and while France’s plan may not be perfect, it certainly is a step in the right direction. The hunger crisis is an issue that is not going to go away, especially not with the changes in our society and environment we see developing that will continue in the future. Wasting almost half of the food in this country is unacceptable when so many go hungry, and any change, even if it is flawed, would be a welcome one.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor  for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.