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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 and yard waste collected by municipal services. Furthermore, the following materials were excluded from the map: unharvested crops or on-farm loss 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).

  • 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 an updated version of the map in late 2019. Anaerobic digestion facilities, food banks and communities with source separated organics were not updated in Version 2.0; EPA plans to update these in the next update of the map, planned for late 2019.

    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?

    Nearly 1.2 million potential generators of excess food in eight categories (correctional facilities, educational institutions, food banks, food manufacturers and processors, food wholesale and retail, healthcare facilities, the hospitality industry and restaurants and food services) and more than 4,000 potential recipients of excess food (i.e., food banks, composting facilities and anaerobic digestion facilities) appear in the map. 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 multiple formulas for various sectors, resulting in a high and low excess food estimate for each establishment. 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. 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 limited 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 97.8 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 a farm and was therefore explicitly excluded from this version of the map.
    b. 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).
    c. The establishment is considered a headquarters, which typically and primarily serve an administrative function, with no excess food generation.
    d. The establishment was not included in the data EPA acquired from Hoover's, Inc., the Department of Homeland Security 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 Department of Homeland Security, the National Center for Education Statistics, Feeding America, U.S. Census, 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., the Department of Homeland Security 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.

  • 9. What changes were made in Version 2.0 of the map?

    Version 2.0 includes updated 2018 data for all generators and composting facilities, as well as the addition of the restaurants and food services sector, which more than doubles the number of generators in the map to nearly 1.2 million. The methodologies used to calculate excess food generation estimates were also updated, resulting in new estimates for all generators. Industries (i.e., NAICS codes) included in some sectors were updated to better reflect those that have the potential to generate excess food. Additional data fields, such as phone numbers and websites, were included for educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and composting facilities, where available. For more detail, please see the technical methodology. Composting facilities are point mapped in Version 2.0, whereas in Version 1.0 they were only mapped by zip code and county, and coverage of composting facilities increased from 39 states to 49 states and one territory. Anaerobic digestion facilities, food banks, and communities with source separated organics were not updated in Version 2.0; EPA plans to update these in the next update of the map, planned for late 2019.

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