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Sustainable Management of Food

Frequent Questions about the U.S. EPA Excess Food Opportunities Map

The U.S. EPA Excess Food Opportunities Map supports nationwide diversion of excess food from landfills through the identification and display of establishment-specific information about potential generators and recipients of excess food. Through analysis of the data presented in the map, users may be able to identify infrastructure gaps, assess the feasibility of developing new recipient facilities and identify alternatives to landfill disposal. If your question is not answered below, please contact SMMFood@epa.gov.

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Map Background

  • 1. Who is the intended audience for the map?

    State and local governments, food recovery organizations, organics recycling businesses, and generators of excess food.

  • 2. How does U.S. EPA define excess food for the map?

    For the map, the phrase “excess food” generally refers to post-harvest food that is intended for human consumption but removed from the supply chain to be recovered, recycled or disposed. However, because U.S. EPA’s goal is to maximize recovery and beneficial use of all discarded organics, some organic materials were included in the map that are not intended for human consumption, such as inedible parts (e.g., pits, rinds, bones) discarded in kitchens or during processing, some green organic material (e.g., flower trimmings), pet food, and yard waste collected by municipal services. Furthermore, the following materials were excluded from the map: unharvested crops or on-farm loss; used cooking oil (recycled as animal feed or biofuel); and excess food and other organic material disposed of by the residential sector, other than that which is captured by Source Separated Organics collection programs.

  • 3. Does the map provide an estimate of total excess food in the United States?

    No. The map provides estimates of excess food generated at the establishment level based on a set of assumptions specific to each type of excess food generator (e.g., hotel, school). These assumptions only address post-harvest excess food generation and do not address existing waste diversion activities that establishments might already be performing. U.S. EPA estimates of excess food nationwide are available via EPA's Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report and include the residential, commercial and institutional sectors.

  • 4. Does the map provide estimates of recipient capacity for excess food?

    No. However, in some cases, the map provides limited contact information that can be used to learn more about their operations and information about types of materials accepted.

  • 5. Will the map align with existing state maps detailing excess food generators and recipients (i.e., maps for Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Vermont)?

    Not always. This is because U.S. EPA and state data sources for the maps are not always the same and because only certain industrial, commercial or institutional facility North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes were selected to represent a particular sector in the U.S. EPA map. For example, the Connecticut map includes only state prisons while the U.S. EPA map includes all facilities classified by the NAICS code corresponding to correctional facilities (NAICS 922140). Also, the U.S. EPA map does not currently include facilities associated with the food services sector (NAICS codes 722310, 722320, 722511, 722513, 722514, 722515) or farms, while some existing state maps do.

  • 6. Can I download data from the map?

    Yes. There are two ways to download data: via the map interface and via EPA’s Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG). In the map interface, data download is limited to the first 1,000 records displayed in the selected map view. Complete datasets for generators and recipients are available for download via EPA’s EDG and provide data for the entire nation. Further detail about how to download data is available in the User Guide for the U.S. EPA Excess Food Opportunities Map.

  • 7. Will the map be updated in the future?

    Yes, U.S. EPA hopes to release a Version 2.0 with refinements, including the addition of food services sector data. Update announcements will be posted on the U.S. EPA Excess Food Opportunities Map web page.


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Technical Specifications

  • 1. Where can I get more information about the data and methodology supporting the map?

    The technical methodology provides this information.

  • 2. How many and what type of establishments are included in the map?

    More than 500,000 potential generators of excess food in seven categories (correctional facilities, educational institutions, food banks, food manufacturers and processors, food wholesalers and distributors, healthcare facilities and the hospitality industry) and more than 4,000 potential recipients of excess food (i.e., food banks, composting facilities and anaerobic digestion facilities) appear in the map. Note that this map currently excludes establishments associated with the food services sector (e.g., restaurants, caterers, etc.), though U.S. EPA hopes to include these establishments in a future update. Additional information and the full list of NAICS codes associated with excess food generators is available via the technical methodology.

  • 3. How did U.S. EPA generate the estimates of excess food for each establishment?

    U.S. EPA conducted a literature review to identify studies that used formulas to estimate excess food generation rates in a given industry and adopted single or multiple formulas for various sectors. The data required as input for the formulas were common business statistics, such as revenue or employee count, and obtained primarily from Hoover’s, Inc. If available for a given sector, U.S. EPA adopted multiple formulas and used them to calculate an estimated range of excess food generation rates. For universities, U.S. EPA was also able to provide an estimate of plate excess, and for supermarkets and grocery stores, U.S. EPA was also able to provide an estimate of edible excess food. The formulas, their sources and their inputs are detailed in the technical methodology.

  • 4. Why is there no excess food estimate available for some establishments?

    The excess food generation estimates are based on equations that require common business statistics that U.S. EPA obtained from several sources (commercially and publicly available). In some cases, there were no establishment-specific business statistics available, which means there is not an excess food estimate for all establishments. In these cases, while the establishment is included in the map, the estimate field is blank. The map provides an estimate for roughly 86 percent of mapped establishments.

  • 5. Why might an establishment be missing from the map?

    There are several reasons why an establishment may be missing from the map:

    a. The establishment is classified as part of the food services sector and was therefore explicitly excluded from this version of the map (i.e., NAICS codes
         722310, 722320, 722511, 722513, 722514, 722515).
    b. The establishment is classified as a farm and was therefore explicitly excluded from this version of the map.
    c. The establishment may not be associated with the NAICS codes chosen for the map (the full list is available as part of the technical methodology).
    d. The establishment is considered a headquarters, which typically and primarily serve an administrative function, with no excess food generation.
    e. The establishment was not included in the data EPA acquired from Hoover's, Inc. and the National Center for Education Statistics.

  • 6. What are the sources of the data?

    The data comes from public and commercially available sources including Hoovers, Inc., the National Center for Education Statistics, Feeding America, U.S. Census, American Hospital Directory, state websites and studies, Biocycle magazine, Food Waste Reduction Alliance, peer-reviewed articles and internal EPA databases, among other sources. For more detail, please see the technical methodology.

  • 7. How accurate are the establishment-specific estimates of excess food generation rates?

    The estimates are based on common business statistics taken primarily from Hoover’s, Inc. and the National Center for Education Statistics, and combined with methodologies that use generation factors based on limited measured data which ranges in age. The estimates do not account for current excess food management diversion activity. More information about the limitations of the methodology is available in the technical methodology.

  • 8. Can I send in accurate, measured information for my company which can be used to update the map?

    No. U.S. EPA intends for the map to reflect a standard methodology and for it to be used, in combination with other publicly available tools and resources, to support excess food diversion and not as a reference reflecting a mix of actual and estimated activity.

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