In 2010, U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores threw out 43 billion pounds, or $46.7 billion worth, of food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). But if Arash Derambarsh had his way, that number would be zero. His goals are ambitious, but then again the municipal councilor from Courbevoie, France did manage to get a law passed in France last week that would accomplish just that.
The law bans supermarkets in France from discarding or destroying unsold food. According to Salon’s Lindsay Abrams, the law mandates that all unsold but edible food should be donated to charities for immediate distribution to the poor. Food that is unsafe to eat is to be donated to farms for agricultural purposes. Supermarkets that exceed a certain square footage are required to sign contacts with charities by July 2016; penalties for failing to do so include fines of up to roughly $81,600 or two years in prison. The legislation is one of the world’s first attempts to address the twin problems of food waste and hunger in this manner.
The momentum for the law’s adoption came from a petition that Derambarsh launched on Change.org four months ago. On the petition site, Derambarsh explains, “On the one hand, [we have] a middle class that has more and more economic problems. … [O]n the other hand, every supermarket throws away every day more than 20 kg of food. This is unthinkable with the current economic crisis!” The appeal quickly gathered support, with over 210,000 people signing it and several French celebrities endorsing the cause.