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Multiscale Resilient, Equitable and Circular Innovations with Partnership and Education Synergies (RECIPES)

WFPC researchers are supporting American University and co-principal investigators from Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Ohio State University and the Rochester Institute of Technology, on a $15 million, five-year project funded by National Science Foundation.  The project will establish the first national academic research network on wasted food. The research network will deepen understanding of how the causes of wasted food are interconnected and how they intersect with other regional systems beyond food. Researchers will take a systems approach to improving data on wasted food, with the goal of designing and strengthening sustainable solutions to reducing food waste.

Additional research institutions include Maryland Institute College of Art, World Wildlife Fund, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, University of Albany, Louisiana State University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, and University of California-Davis.

Researchers aim to find, strengthen and adapt data-driven solutions for how food waste can become a resource: for example, by taking a systems approach to preventing wasted food; diverting high-quality surplus food that otherwise would be wasted and getting it to food-insecure communities; recycling residual carbon and nutrients back into agricultural production; and converting inedible food scraps into bioenergy that powers regional infrastructure.

Project Overview

What makes Multiscale RECIPES unique?

  1. The Multiscale RECIPES project is unique in that it is the first national academic research network on wasted food working with multi-sector partners and stakeholders around the U.S. to better understand the many causes of wasted food and how they’re interconnected, as well as linkages with other regional systems, in order to design and strengthen innovative, sustainable solutions to reducing wasted food.
  2. Additional info: RECIPES includes researchers from regions representing major fruit and vegetable (California), meat and commodity crop (Illinois and Ohio), and milk and food processing (New York) hubs. The network includes urban regions, like Rochester, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago, Columbus, and Baton Rouge, cities that all grapple with food system inequalities and that are poised for economic transformations that can be realized through food system innovations. The network also includes strategic partners already deeply engaged on food waste solutions, such as the World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data.
  3. RECIPES will create an online, publicly accessible database on wasted food in the U.S. that will fill a critical gap in food systems research. Data will be generated, collected, and integrated and come from areas that intersect with food systems including health, the environment, the economy and transportation, and more.
  4. Projects include imaging science to measure food types and quantities; computer modeling to predict national food flows across the country; and ethnographic studies with communities to gain insights on the relationships between people, food and culture.
  5. The project will provide education to the next generations by involving graduate and undergraduate students in research and creation of curricula for elementary schools. Outcomes will include open educational resources and the first undergraduate student science journal on food systems.
  6. Researchers will develop a new, rigorous assessment of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the project that will serve as a model for future NSF research network.
  7. Incorporates the process of creative, “human-centered design,” which puts the people most affected by a problem (in this case, wasted food, food insecurity, etc.) at the center of the process to better understand the problem and to co-design ideas to address it. This is done by facilitating a design process to engage different and diverse voices, perspectives, disciplines and stakeholders.

Problem Overview

From farm to supply chain issues to consumer behavior and in some parts of the world, a lack of refrigeration, wasted food is a challenge spanning from the local to the global, with diverse challenges in every region of the world. In the United States, 40 percent of food produced is never eaten, which represents waste in the forms of lost resources and pollution from food production, economic costs to businesses and households, and decreased food security. Wasted food and related food scraps create a complex organic waste stream that, in turn, leads to immense climate and ecological impacts.

National health, security, prosperity and welfare depend on sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems. Addressing the problem of wasted food will lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve food security. Based on prior research, the sustainability implications of wasting food in the United States include the annual misuse or loss of an estimated 30 million acres of cropland, 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water, 780 million pounds of pesticides, and 1.8 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer, along with over 1,250 calories and nearly 1 pound of food per capita per day.

The U.S., in parallel with the goals set forth by the United Nations, aims to halve food waste by 2030. Along with the U.N. goals, in the United States, there is widespread support for reducing food waste.



September 1, 2022 -


  • Norbert Wilson, Duke World Food Policy Center
  • Sauleh Siddiqui, American University
  • Roni Neff, Johns Hopkins University
  • Celeste Chavis, Morgan State University
  • Callie Babbitt, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Lee Davis, Maryland Institute College of Art
  • Alex Nichols-Vinuenza, World Wildlife Fund
  • Megan Konar, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
  • Xiaobo X. Romeiko, University of Albany
  • Xin (Shane) Li, Louisiana State University
  • Martin Corby,  Pennington Biomedical Research Center
  • Weslynne Ashton, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Edward Spang, University of California-Davis


National Science Foundation