Callie Babbitt, an associate professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS), has received a nearly $1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research sustainable solutions for minimizing and managing the growing and complex challenges of food waste generated across the food supply chain.
The four-year project, titled “Managing Energy, Water, and Information Flows for Sustainability across the Advanced Food Ecosystem,” will launch an interdisciplinary research collaboration with faculty from five RIT colleges. The research team will study how innovative technologies, waste management systems, and policies can reduce the volume and environmental impacts of food waste—while at the same time creating economic growth and maximizing efficient use of energy and water resources.
The stakes are huge. Faced with a growing world population and a shrinking pool of natural resources, the world today faces an unprecedented challenge to provide a resilient food supply—made even more complex by vast inefficiencies and resulting food waste generated across the food supply chain
“About 40 percent of food produced in the United States is never eaten,” Babbitt said. “There are huge losses that become apparent when we look at the entire supply chain—from excess crops left in the field, wastes from food processing, imperfect or ‘ugly’ foods discarded by grocery stores and restaurants, not to mention food that is purchased but then spoils, goes past its expiration date, or isn’t ultimately wanted by consumers.”
“The social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste really add up,” Babbitt added. “An average American household spends almost $2,000 every year on food that goes straight to a landfill. We’re missing opportunities to feed hungry families, wasting the vast water and energy resources that went into producing the food, and creating new environmental impacts, like greenhouse gas emissions from food waste disposal.”