ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Barriers and Opportunities for Seattle Food Waste

A new report from the University of Washington School of Public Health analyzes current food waste prevention and recovery efforts and advises on local strategies.

The report suggests that public agencies are in a unique position to foster an integrated local and regional approach. Such an effort could provide support for grocery stores and restaurants wanting to reduce their food waste, as well as for organizations striving to make healthier food available to people who need it most.

The report was prepared for the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment and Seattle Public Utilities by the School’s Center for Public Health Nutrition.

Jennifer Otten_ASPPH
[Photo: Dr. Jennifer Otten]

“The report brings the city a step closer to realizing their goals by helping them understand the challenges and opportunities of food-generating businesses and anti-hunger agencies in creating a more effective food waste prevention and recovery system,” says Dr. Jennifer Otten, lead author of the report, assistant professor of health services, and core faculty member of the Nutritional Sciences Program at UW. “It helps them envision the steps they could take to achieve the triple bottom line of improving environmental health, food security and public health.”

The UW research team conducted 26 in-depth interviews of key stakeholders within the region, and public agencies across the country, to understand the best ways the city can support food waste prevention and recovery goals. Researchers talked to eight anti-hunger agencies, five public agencies, one non-governmental organization, and 12 food-generating businesses.

The researchers came up with 11 key recommendations for the City of Seattle to increase food waste prevention and recovery. Among them:

The report also identified the challenges faced by anti-hunger agencies, public agencies and food-generating businesses, and offered insight into promising practices.

“Food waste is a major environmental, economic and ethical problem,” Dr. Otten says. “We cannot afford to continue squandering our natural resources, in ways that severely impact the climate, by throwing away perfectly edible food.”

The report was developed in collaboration with former MPH students Ms. Sara Diedrich, a research coordinator at Washington State University Extension, and Ms. Katherine Getts, a research coordinator at the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition, as well as current MPH student Ms. Christine Benson, a research assistant also with the Center.