Today, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and ReFED announced the ten host organizations where graduate student fellows participating in the 2023 Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps® Food Waste Fellowship program will be working to help advance a range of food waste reduction initiatives. For the past 15 years, EDF has trained talented and passionate graduate students and paired them with companies and public institutions determined to meet their climate and energy goals; this year, fellows are coming from schools including Harvard University Extension School, Georgetown University, Columbia University, University of Michigan, Presidio Graduate School, and Bard College. After a successful first year, EDF is linking its experience in business consulting and technical assistance with ReFED’s expertise in food waste causes, impacts, and solutions to offer this special Climate Corps fellowship specifically focused on food waste, in order to serve the growing interest among businesses that recognize that reducing the amount of food that goes to waste throughout the food system is an important climate change strategy.
New estimates from ReFED show that 38% of U.S. food supply – more than 91 million tons – went unsold or uneaten in 2021, costing businesses and consumers approximately $444 billion in lost value. In addition to dragging down the economy, this surplus food was responsible for 6% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the consumption of 22% of U.S. freshwater resources and 16% of U.S. cropland. Wasted food that decomposes in landfills is the main contributor to methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide. These new estimates signify a critical need for programs like EDF’s Climate Corps Food Waste Fellowship, which is designed to achieve measurable progress in reducing food waste by helping organizations improve their own internal processes, as well as influence their external partners to take action.
“There is a growing number of companies that are making public commitments to reduce food waste. Some of those companies need additional resources to be able to drive progress against those goals and turn pledges to progress,” says Mali’o Kodis from EDF. “We’re thrilled to partner with ReFED for a second year to uniquely equip a new group of Climate Corps Food Waste fellows to help these companies make key reductions across their supply chains.”
Beginning in June, the ten fellows will be deployed for 10-12 week engagements to work on a range of food waste-related projects at organizations including Closed Loop Partners; Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection; Lane County, OR; Leanpath; MGM Resorts International; Oak View Group & OVG Hospitality; Olmsted County, MN; ReFED; Sodexo; and Wawa. Importantly, this year’s host organizations come from a range of different sectors – including government, investment, sports & entertainment, hospitality, and retail. This variety of hosts, some of which are not directly connected to the food system, demonstrates that many different types of businesses can make an impact in advancing food waste solutions. Additionally, four of the organizations are hosting a food waste fellow for a second year, further illustrating the value of the fellowship program.
"We know that food waste is a solvable issue, and with dozens of food waste solutions ready to be implemented, we need to take a systematic approach that can remove barriers to solution adoption," said Angel Veza from ReFED. "That's why it is exciting to see not only food businesses take action by participating in effective programs like EDF’s Climate Corps Food Waste Fellowship, but also investment firms, municipalities, and government agencies."
One organization that is new to EDF’s Climate Corps Program is Closed Loop Partners, a New York based firm at the forefront of building the circular economy. The company is comprised of three key business segments: an investment firm, innovation center and operating group. Their Climate Corp Fellow will be supporting multiple and diverse initiatives across its innovation center, including the Composting Consortium, a multi-year collaboration across the entire compostable packaging value chain to pilot industry-wide solutions and build a roadmap for investment in technologies and infrastructure that enable the recovery of compostable food packaging and food scraps.
To prepare the fellows for their work, EDF and ReFED have developed custom-made, intensive trainings featuring subject matter experts and practitioners with experience working with companies such as The Kroger Company, Deloitte, and BioCycle. Additionally, each fellow has been granted a scholarship generously provided by The Betsy & Jesse Fink Family Foundation to attend ReFED’s 2023 Food Waste Solutions Summit May 16-18 in St. Louis, MO, where they will engage with food business leaders, funders, solution providers, policymakers, and more for three days of insights, inspiration, and action around food waste.
Since the inception of EDF’s Climate Corps program in 2008, over 1,400 graduate students have been placed in more than 600 leading organizations spanning the U.S., China, and India. Climate Corps fellows have helped companies, cities, and organizations design and implement new tools and practices to reduce energy consumption, procure renewable energy, set carbon reduction targets and engage customers, employees and suppliers in achieving sustainability goals. Together, they have helped identify energy savings worth more than $1.6 billion, the equivalent of over 2.2 million metric tons in carbon emissions.
For information about hosting a food waste fellow in 2024, please contact ReFED’s Angel Veza at [email protected].
For information about becoming a fellow in 2024, please contact EDF’s Mali’o Kodis at [email protected].
Photo: A 2022 Climate Corp Fellow at host company Albertsons.
About EDF Climate Corps
Environmental Defense Fund is an international environmental organization working at the intersection of policy, science, and economics. EDF has an ambitious mission – a vital Earth for everyone. EDF+Business, the organization's corporate engagement arm, leverages the power of the private sector and challenges business leaders to raise the bar on environmental leadership and innovation and forging unexpected partnerships that catalyze action across companies and supply chains. EDF+Business operated Climate Corps, the premier sustainability fellowship program matching ambitious graduate students with sustainability programs across the public and private sector for impactful summer engagements.
ReFED is a national nonprofit working to end food loss and waste across the food system by advancing data-driven solutions. We leverage data and insights to highlight supply chain inefficiencies and economic opportunities; mobilize and connect supporters to take targeted action; and catalyze capital to spur innovation and scale high-impact initiatives. Our goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow.