Funding Opportunities and EPA Programs Related to the Food System
Wasted food is a growing problem in our modern society and an untapped opportunity. In 2018 alone, EPA estimates that about 63 million tons of wasted food were generated in the commercial, institutional, and residential sectors, with about 32% being managed by animal feed, bio-based materials/biochemical processing, codigestion/anaerobic digestion, composting, donation, land application, and sewer/wastewater treatment. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 24 percent of the amount landfilled and 22 percent of the amount combusted with energy recovery.
On this page:
- Funding Opportunities
- EPA Food Systems Programs
EPA PA specific funding opportunities for reducing wasted food are listed below. We will update this page with any future opportunities specific to wasted food.
Every year, EPA awards more than $4 billion in funding for grants and other assistance agreements. From small non-profit organizations to large state governments, EPA works to help many visionary organizations achieve their environmental goals. With countless success stories over the years, EPA grants remain a chief tool to protect human health and the environment.
Visit EPA grants for more information.
- EPA Specific Grant Programs: The Office of Grants and Debarment establishes and provides national assistance agreement policies, guidance, and training; oversees the Agency's assistance agreement competition policies and practices; provides compliance support; administers assistance agreements; and manages the Agency’s Suspension and Debarment program. Visit EPA Specific Grant Programs to read the full list of grant programs.
- EPA Regional Grants: EPA regional offices offer grants to entities within their regions on a variety of environmental matters. For more information about what each region offer, visit EPA Region-Specific Grant Information.
National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program
Fiscal Year 2021 Request for Applications
Applications to the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - Sustainable Agricultural Systems Request for Applications (RFA) must focus on approaches that promote transformational changes in the U.S. food and agriculture system. NIFA seeks creative and visionary applications that take a systems approach for projects focused on the themes in the USDA Science Blueprint: (1) sustainable agricultural intensification; (2) agricultural climate adaptation; (3) value-added innovation; and/or (4) food and nutrition translation. [USDA-NIFA-AFRI-007892]
Note: This RFA has 2 program area priorities, each with different eligibility requirements. (Range of Awards: $1,000,000 - $10,000,000.)
- Program Area Priority A9201: Letter of Intent: 1/7/2021; Application: 4/1/2021
- Program Area Priority A9211: Letter of Intent; 3/4/2021; Application: 7/1/2021
For more information, contact the AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems Team.
All EPA grants and other federal grants can be found on Grants.gov. Additionally, all EPA grant applicants must use Workspace to submit applications through Grants.gov. View two recorded webinars that provide training and a demonstration.
The food that we buy from stores and put in our mouths everyday represents a vast and complex web of businesses and distribution systems, starting with the farm and leading all the way to our tables. At every stage, EPA has programs assisting businesses and institutions to address inefficiencies and environmental impacts.
EPA is helping change the way our society protects the environment and conserves resources for future generations with over 20 food-related programs that assist in managing the path that food travels from field to fork, and even what to do with the leftovers. Our diverse range of programs and initiatives address the following food system phases:
- Agricultural production
- Processing and manufacturing
- Marketing and distribution, wholesale and retail
- Purchase, consumption, and waste management
Most EPA programs address multiple phases. The programs below are organized by the most common phase the program is addressing. For more information about each of EPA’s food systems programs, please read the descriptions and click on the links below.
- AgSTAR: Biogas Recovery in the Agricultural Sector: Helps livestock producers deploy more environmentally sound manure management systems, diversify farm revenue and encourage rural economic growth, and reduce the emission of methane from the agricultural sector, the AgSTAR website explains how anaerobic digestion (AD) systems work and the benefits of biogas recovery. AgSTAR encourages the interface between farm-based AD systems and the food production and food waste sectors to allow for an environmentally and financially viable solution for all parties. The program also provides tools and resources to assess the feasibility of AD, national trends, digester project profiles, and experiences of AD operators.
- Nutrient Pollution and Nutrient Management and Fertilizer: Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus that washes into water bodies and is released into the air are often the direct result of human activities. Animal manure, excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields, and soil erosion make agriculture one of the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the country.
- Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program: The Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program’s mission is to reduce pesticide risk in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings through public-private partnerships that promote Integrated Pest Management (IPM). It is a voluntary membership program that works with the nation’s pesticide-user community to reduce human health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use.
- Combined Heat and Power Partnership: Through the CHP Partnership, EPA’s CHP team works with CHP stakeholders to reduce air pollution and water usage associated with electric power generation by increasing the use of CHP. EPA’s goal is to remove policy barriers and to facilitate the development of new projects in the United States and its territories by promoting the economic, environmental, and reliability benefits of CHP. We provide tools, policy information, and other resources to energy users; the CHP industry; clean air officials; and other clean energy stakeholders.
- ENERGY STAR® Certified Commercial Food Service Equipment: ENERGY STAR® certified commercial kitchen equipment helps café, restaurant, and institutional kitchen operators save energy by cutting utility and maintenance costs without sacrificing features, quality, or style. Saving energy helps save money on utility bills and reduce energy-related emissions.
- Green Power Partnership: The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use. In return for technical assistance and recognition, Partners commit to use green power for all, or a portion, of their annual electricity consumption. EPA defines green power as a subset of renewable resources that represent those resources that offer the highest environmental benefit. The overall vision of the Green Power Partnership is to protect human health and the environment by expanding U.S. renewable energy markets through the voluntary use of green power.
- P2 National Emphasis Area: Food Manufacturing: The Pollution Prevention (P2) program funds two-year Pollution Prevention (P2) assistance agreements for projects that provide technical assistance and/or training to businesses/facilities to help them adopt source reduction approaches. One of the “National Emphasis Areas” is on Food Manufacturing, which encourages grantees to identify opportunities for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, hazardous materials generation and use, and/or business costs at food manufacturing facilities.
- GreenChill: The GreenChill Partnership works with food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their impact on the ozone layer by supporting a transition to environmentally friendlier refrigerants, lowering charge sizes and eliminating leaks, and adopting green refrigeration technologies and best environmental practices.
- SmartWay Transport Partnership: SmartWay provides its 3700 partners a comprehensive system for tracking, documenting and sharing information about fuel use and freight emissions throughout the supply chain. The SmartWay platform helps shippers and logistics providers identify and select more efficient carriers, transport modes, equipment, and operational strategies to improve sustainability and lower costs. Carriers can choose fuel saving equipment verified by EPA and all partners are eligible to compete for annual awards. Many food processors, retailers and suppliers already participate in SmartWay as partners, and major food industry associations participate as SmartWay Affiliates.
- WaterSense: WaterSense, a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is both a label for water-efficient products and is a resource for helping you save water. By choosing WaterSense labeled products, homes or services and using water-efficient best practices we are saving water for future generations. WaterSense labeled products meet EPA's specifications for water efficiency of at least 20% or more without sacrificing performance, and are backed by independent, third-party certification
- Local Foods, Local Places: Co-sponsored by EPA and USDA, Local Foods, Local Places provides technical assistance to help communities develop the local food economy. Community projects include developing community gardens, kitchens, and farmers markets and other food-related enterprises that can create new businesses and revitalize main street, improve access to fresh, local food, and protect the environment.
- Anaerobic Digestion: EPA’s Anaerobic Digestion web page provides basic information about anaerobic digesters, including benefits, projects, tools and resources, publications and other resources/tools. For example, EPA currently maintains a database of the name and location of AD facilities processing food waste.
- Food Recovery Challenge: As part of EPA's Food Recovery Challenge (FRC), organizations pledge to improve their sustainable food management practices and report their results. The FRC is part of EPA's Sustainable Materials Management Program (SMM). SMM seeks to reduce the environmental impact of materials through their entire life cycle. This includes how they are extracted, manufactured, distributed, used, reused, recycled, and disposed.
- Food: Too Good to Waste: Food: Too Good to Waste consists of an implementation guide and toolkit that aim to reduce wasteful household food management practices.
- North American Initiative on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery: The North American Initiative on Food Waste Reduction and Recovery is a trilateral project between U.S., Canada, and Mexico through the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The goal of this project is to enhance the capacity in the three countries for reducing the disposal of food waste in landfills by exploring opportunities to achieve food waste reduction and recovery within relevant North American industry, commercial, and institutional sectors.
- North American Initiative on Organic Waste Diversion and Processing: The goal of this project is to identify barriers, opportunities and solutions related to increasing organic waste diversion and processing capacity in North America (Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.). The project focuses on organic waste collection/segregation and organic waste processing. In all three countries, organic waste represents a significant component of the waste stream that can be diverted from landfills to other waste management approaches such as composting, anaerobic digestion, and other organic waste processes. This will contribute to significant reductions in short-lived climate pollutants such as methane, which impact human health and air quality in addition to contributing to climate change.
- Sustainable Acquisition and Materials Management Practices Working Group: The Sustainable Acquisition and Materials Management Practices (SAMM) Working Group is an interagency working group that is advisory to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Federal Chief Sustainability Officer. The mission of the SAMM is to provide recommendations on implementation of Federal sustainable acquisition and materials management policies and share best practices among Federal agencies. The SAMM meets every month and is chaired by a Federal employee within the General Services Administration (GSA) and EPA.
- Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program: This program conducts research and develops tools that offer solutions to community-based decision makers, inside and outside EPA. This work includes the development of models, metrics, technical support, and community-scale assessment tools. The Program’s Strategic Research Action Plan features a focus area on the beneficial re-use of waste materials which includes evaluating food waste strategies, like the use of fishery and poultry waste for creating bio-based contaminant remediation materials. The SHC program recently completed a report that identifies select industrial, commercial and institutional sources in the United States that potentially generate excess food at the establishment level and identifies the potential recipients of these materials. This work provided the methodology for EPA’s Excess Food Opportunities Map.
- Sustainable Materials Management Program: The Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) program focus on the food system by supporting programs and initiatives that reduce food waste and promote the sustainable management of packaging. The Food Recovery Challenge is a voluntary recognition initiative that promotes food waste prevention and reduction strategies to member businesses and institutions. The Federal Green Challenge is a voluntary program that encourages federal facilities to improve their environmental performance, including the reduction of food waste. The SMM program also pursues a lifecycle, systems-based approach to address the full range of impacts associated with sustainable management of packaging materials. This includes measurement and analysis, stakeholder engagement, and workgroups that target packaging issues.
- Trash Free Waters: Trash that is improperly disposed of on land or into water can have major environmental and economic impacts on states and communities throughout the U.S. Over 80% of trash in water comes from land-based sources. Much of that trash is plastic packaging waste.
- Washington School Food Share: School Food Share is a simple food recovery program that seeks to prevent and minimize food waste in schools by using leftovers to 1) feed students and 2) donate the remainder of the food to local food banks to fight hunger in the community. The program’s replicable model provides technical assistance alongside steps and guidelines that allow schools and food banks to work together to collect whole and packaged cafeteria leftovers and share them with the community. The program avoids wasted food and all associated environmental programs, helps feed hungry people in the community, and saves the district waste removal expenses.