Abstract for:Comparing direct and indirect food recovery supply chains in the US and Europe: Environmental, Equity and Transparency Implications

As food waste has captured both American and global environmental concern, organizations domestically and internationally are paying increased attention to highest value interventions reducing food waste, such as improving supply chains, changing aesthetic standards and directing food at all levels to “recovery.” This work documents the range in typologies of food recovery organizations and businesses, tracking the differences between the US and Europe. It also explores the differences between decades-old nonprofits in food recovery from the emerging social enterprises in the space.  This paper critically analyzes the differences between direct and indirect approaches to food recovery, in their short and longer-term impacts on the regional food system, using causal loop modeling to explore some of the unintended consequences of these approaches. Direct food recovery and food donation initiatives are much more prevalent in Europe, likely fueled by less concern around food safety litigation. These approaches of directly connecting donors and recipients cut the supply chain significantly, but have other unintended consequences such as decreasing food diversity for recipients. While indirect food recovery approaches — with a large nonprofit and increasing for-profit industry serving as intermediaries — have inefficiencies throughout the supply chain, they can create more specifically designed products for recipients, although this depends highly on organizational values.