$2 Million Grant Investment Aims to Reduce Food Waste

Pennington Biomedical Research Center partnering with The Ohio State University to develop innovative measures for household food waste

April 27, 2023

For more information, contact Ernie Ballard, ernie.ballard@pbrc.edu, 225-263-2677

BATON ROUGE – An estimated 35 percent of food produced in the United States is thrown away, valued at an average $408 billion loss annually. About 37 percent of waste occurs in homes, though this amount is likely underestimated due to the difficulty of measuring household food waste.

To accelerate the development of bold methodologies that can be used to measure household food waste across the food system, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, or FFAR, is awarding a cumulative total of $1 million to three grantees: Oregon State University, The Ohio State University and the University of Florida. The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is providing matching funding for these grants for a total $2 million investment.

In the U.S. over one-third of food produced each year is wasted. Yet, over 10 percent of U.S. households are food insecure. Addressing food waste is an urgent issue that requires dynamic and cohesive methodologies to establish and meet food waste reduction targets.

Currently, the amount of food waste generated in U.S. households is assessed in multiple ways, including surveys, collection of containers dedicated to wasted food or by consumers submitting photos of their food waste using specially designed apps. These approaches are fragmented and often inaccurate as data can vary based on different understandings of food waste terminology and categorization, such as compost and trash. The amount of U.S. household food waste is most likely underestimated, leading to differing interpretation on the scale of the issue overall and the effectiveness of potential solutions to reduce household food waste.

“Food waste represents not only the loss of nutrients but a waste of valuable resources, which puts significant strains on the environment, economy and our society,” said Dr. Constance Gewa, FFAR senior program director of the Health-Agriculture Challenge Area. “An innovative approach to measuring household food waste is needed in order to drive change and reduce food waste.”

There are various challenges to addressing food waste at the consumer level, including consumer behavior, supply chain disruptions, sociocultural and environmental elements. Additional research is necessary to accelerate food waste reduction at the consumer level and support interventions across the food system.

FFAR and Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation are awarding three grants to advance the development of innovative food waste measurement tools and technologies:

  • Dr. Patrick Donnely, assistant professor at Oregon State University College of Engineering is receiving a total investment of $637,733 to develop a new AI-assisted technology that enables consumers to track, measure and reduce household food waste. This AI-enabled device automatically and accurately measures food waste in the home kitchen. This data will contribute to a novel dataset to enable and encourage researchers to tackle the problem of food waste measurement with computer vision. 
  • Dr. Brian Roe, professor at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and Drs. John Apolzan and Corby Martin at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center are receiving a total investment of $839,670 to innovate a flexible approach that quantitatively measures households’ food waste and can easily be deployed by food-system stakeholders. Roe and his team are investigating three common measurement approaches and applying machine learning to produce a predictive model that is flexible and accurately addresses future food waste questions. This data will contribute to the development of novel datasets of food waste measurements.
  • Dr. Ziynet Boz Ozdemir, assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is receiving a total investment of $522,607 to assess uncertainties in the measurement of household food waste to improve the understanding of common food waste quantification methods. Boz and her team are enlisting a citizen approach, wherein members of the public are trained in and perform data collection in two pilot studies that measure factors that contribute to household food waste. From this, an open-access, novel tool will be provided to stakeholders and policymakers.

“This project represents a unique and long-standing research collaboration between Pennington Biomedical’s Dr. John Apolzan and Dr. Corby Martin have with Dr. Brian Roe at The Ohio State University,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Pennington Biomedical Executive Director. “The group received two prior USDA grants to develop and validate the FoodImage Smartphone app. This new award will allow them to advance the technology and better quantify food waste so that strategies can be created to minimize and eventually eliminate the problem here in the United States and across the globe. Pennington Biomedical is excited to be part of this nationwide research effort.”

Stakeholders across the food system including local, state and federal governments are in need of accurate and standardized household food waste measurement methodologies and metrics. These projects are developing innovative methodologies to create impactful and efficient interventions that will reduce food waste and improve the sustainability of our food systems overall.

“We established the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation’s Innovation Fund to help identify and scale solutions with the potential to improve food security and end food waste,” said Denise Osterhues, president of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation. “We are pleased to work with FFAR to support this important research to help reduce household food waste in the future.”

Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The Center architected the national “Obecity, USA” awareness and advocacy campaign to help solve the obesity epidemic by 2040. The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with LSU.

The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical a state-of-the-art research facility on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge.

For more information, see www.pbrc.edu.

Pennington Biomedical Research Center
6400 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808