Using Government Grants and Incentives to Reduce Food Waste

Food loss and waste is one of the world’s greatest food system challenges. An estimated one-third of food produced globally is ultimately lost or wasted along the supply chain, amounting to approximately 1.3 billion tons of food each year. Much of this wasted food ends up in landfills where it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is up to 80 times more harmful than carbon dioxide because of its intense short-term impacts on global warming. At the same time, the number of undernourished people in the world increased to 828 million in 2021. In many countries, food donation is a popular and logical solution to redirect safe, surplus food into the hands of those who need it most.

Scaling food donation requires aligned incentives and sensible policy to motivate individuals and companies to donate rather than discard surplus food. Because food donation is not free, donors and food recovery organizations often incur transportation and storage costs, grants that help build out donation infrastructure or provide general operating support can offset some of the ongoing costs of food donation.  Similarly, governments can use grants to supplement innovative efforts to reduce food waste by providing funds for innovative solutions, such as new technologies that prolong shelf-life or help with forecasting demand.  While grants require funding, incentives can also be a powerful tool to encourage food donation and acknowledge food donors and innovators in reducing food loss and waste, and serve as a low-to no-cost option for governments to support efforts to reduce food loss and waste. Leveraging such laws can be a powerful tool to influence business behavior and promote more sustainable food systems.

While some governments have provided sizeable pools of grant funds to encourage innovation and others have ongoing programs that support food recovery organizations (Canada, France, Australia, United States, to name a few) and other have adopted incentive programs (Mexico, Ecuador, and others) many governments have yet to provide grants or other incentives to encourage food donation and other innovative ways to reduce food loss and waste.

This dialogue will reveal the potential for well-designed and implemented grant and incentive policies to reduce food loss and waste and its negative impacts on food security.

Session Participants


  • Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School, Clinical Professor of Law, Faculty Director of Food Law and Policy Clinic (welcome)
  • Doug L. O’Brien (close), Vice President, Programs, The Global FoodBanking Network

Moderator (Speaker introductions, Q & A):

  • Ertharin Cousin (Moderator): CEO and Founder of Food Systems for the Future; Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University Center on Food Security and Environment in the Freeman Spogli Institute; former Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme; former US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture.


  • Maïwenn L’hoir, PhD, Project manager fighting against food waste and insecurity/sustainable food, French Ministry of Agriculture
  • Ali Gourley, Public Affairs, Policy and Campaigns Consultant, FareShare UK
  • Carrie Calvert, Vice President, Government Relations, Feeding America

Trevor Findley, Clinical Instructor, Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School


  • Douglas L. O’Brien, Vice President, Programs, The Global FoodBanking Network

Original Broadcast Date: Monday 17 June 2024