Food Insecurity and the Environment

Food Insecurity and the Environment

Cartons of raspberries sitting on a wooden table

Each year in the United States, approximately 62.5 million pounds of wasted food is left unharvested on farms or ends up in landfills. When food like this gets wasted, it produces greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change— but there’s an alternative option that allows us to provide healthier food to food-insecure communities while reducing the environmental impact of our food system. 

Across the U.S., many programs and strategies have been developed through efforts to have less wasted food and fewer food-insecure citizens. However, few of these programs have been evaluated for their effectiveness and for their potential joint impacts on environmental and human health. Research led by Dr. Beth Feingold and Dr. Xiaobo Xue Romeiko addresses this gap, working to identify inefficiencies, barriers, and opportunities for growth in the produce recovery and redistribution system— and also to quantify the impacts of current and future policies and interventions on greenhouse gas emissions, access to fresh produce, and subsequent health benefits in the Capital Region of New York. 

This interdisciplinary research will produce estimates on how local, state, and national food system policies and interventions, such as tax incentives for farmers and date-labeling education, might influence produce recovery strategies, donations, quality, and access. 

In the first year of the project, the team has worked closely with their community partner organizations to compile and collect necessary data on the recovery and redistribution arm of the local food system and identify best practice strategies for modeling the food flow throughout it and associated environmental health impacts. 

Now in year two, the team anticipates completing an initial model to estimate both environmental and health impacts of current and forthcoming food policies, such as the New York State Farm to Food Bank Tax Incentive and the forthcoming Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Act. The model will also evaluate a date-labeling education program within the Capital Region.