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Google is backing a $100 million fund focused on ending food waste

An image of one half of a plate of half eaten food split with an image of half of the globe, signifying food waste and its impact on the planet.
Image Credit: Google

A joint initiative between the non-profit organization ReFED and the circular economy-focused investment fund Closed Loop Partners has received $100 million in funding from backers including Google to end food waste.

The joint venture between the investment fund and the non-profit will include a $80 million investment fund to back companies focused on circular solutions to food waste and $20 million for direct grants and an "innovation program" focused on technological solutions to the food waste problem.

The money's earmarked for both private entrepreneurs and innovators as well as non-profit organizations and cities that want to find a way to divert the 35% of food that goes unsold or uneaten in the U.S. every year.

Funding the initiative alongside the search giant Google are family offices like The Betsy and Jesse Fink Family Foundation.

"Uneaten food is a major driver of greenhouse gas emissions, generating 4% of U.S. and 8% of global emissions annually, so the announcement of this new systems-inspired funding vehicle is an exciting milestone in the fight against climate change," said Alexandria Coari, Vice President, Capital, Innovation & Engagement at ReFED, in a statement. "Together with our partners, we've designed this Funding Platform to have a real impact on the amount of food going to waste, which in turn will drive reductions in greenhouse gasses. We're inspired and humbled by the opportunity to help drive critical capital where it is needed most."

Through their investments ReFED and Closed Loop Partners hope to divert nearly 10 million tons of food waste from landfills and waste streams. It's the equivalent of taking 300,000 cars off the road every year for ten years.

Water savings -- another critical and scarce resource thanks to drought conditions caused by climate change -- could reach nearly 800 billion gallons, according to estimates from the two organizations.

ReFED and Closed Loop have already started investing in some initiatives with zero-interest grants or direct investments into solutions like the Upcycled Food Association (UFA), a nonprofit focused on convening, connecting, and growing awareness of the power of upcycling to fight food waste; and the Food Recovery Network, a nonprofit growing their proven model of donation coordination and matching with a DEIJ lens; along with Hidden Gems, a for-profit business which offers a solution to recycle the 800M pounds per year of nutrient-rich avocado pits that currently go into landfill.

"With Google's anchor funding in the Catalytic Grant Fund portion of the Funding Platform in March, we're already seeing momentum," said Emily Ma, Head of Food for Good at Google. "Working together with ReFED and Closed Loop Partners in this manner significantly accelerates our ability to achieve our circularity commitment of maximizing resources in our own operations and our supply chains, and enable others to do the same."

Over the last 11 years, private investment into food waste solutions topped $7.8 billion since 2011, according to data from ReFED. In 2021, that number topped a record $2 billion.

Still, the organizations think that these figures need to be much higher, if the world wants to hit its goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

"There is a significant gap in what is needed for catalytic capital in the sector, and we feel the time is right to deploy this Funding Platform," said Bridget Croke, Managing Director, Closed Loop Partners, in a statement. "We've had a lot of great encouragement from a variety of stakeholders that are eager to participate, and we encourage anyone who is interested to join us."

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