Get Food Smart TN

Written by Ashley Cabrera | Posted on March 29, 2019

Get Food Smart TN is a statewide initiative launched by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) aimed at promoting the wise use of food and the sustainability of Tennessee’s food resources. The initiative creates a unique platform for the state to engage stakeholders in education, outreach, and recognition centered on the prevention, recovery, and diversion of food waste.

Did you know that an estimated 40% of all food produced in the country goes uneaten?[1] Nearly 85% of that waste occurs downstream in the food production and supply system at consumer-facing businesses and homes.[2] According to a 2018 ReFED report focused on food retailers, there is a tremendous financial opportunity for businesses to address food waste; “the U.S. retail food sector generates 8 million tons of waste a year in distribution centers and stores, or $18 billion a year in lost value. On average, the value of wasted food in retail is equal to roughly double the profits from food sales.”[3]

The retail food sector has several opportunities to reduce food waste through prevention, recovery, and diversion efforts. Prevention solutions create three times the societal net economic value of recovery and diversion solutions combined, making it the most effective solution. Some prevention efforts include standardized date labeling, in-store customer education, and the sale of imperfect produce. Another solution is food recovery, which includes donating unsold, edible food to those who are food insecure. Building local partnerships and in-store employee engagement helps drive the success of food donations. A third solution, diversion, has the greatest potential to reduce food waste nationally. However, taking the steps to divert unsold and inedible food through composting in lieu of landfilling can result in competitive cost advantages.

As part of Get Food Smart TN, TDEC has developed resources to educate consumers, businesses, government, and other entities on using food wisely, to reduce food waste. From meal planning notepads and storage tip, to food waste stats flyers and food waste audit guides, everyone has the resources necessary to do their part in reducing food waste in Tennessee.

Associated with the Get Food Smart TN initiative, TDEC also administers a recognition program for community leaders, businesses, industry, and organizations that excel in implementing food waste conscious efforts. Those recognized for their efforts are certified as “Get Food Smart TN” organizations. The Get Food Smart TN Recognition Program recognizes entities in one of four categories who satisfy at least five (5) of up to 30 criteria under their category. Criteria outlined in each category are intended to reflect actions that organizations can take to reduce food waste and use food wisely. Categories included in the program consist of; (1) Restaurants, (2) Schools, (3) Government entities and non-profits and (4) Grocers, Industry, and Agriculture.

Through the recognition program, our participants play a lead-by-example role for others to follow, while promoting continuous sustainability efforts in reducing food waste.

Our long-term goals are to continue providing technical assistance and resources to consumers and other entities throughout the state, in order to get one step closer to zero food waste. If you would like more information on Get Food Smart TN and how to get involved, you can visit our website, There, you will find resources, a personal pledge to reduce food waste, and the application for our recognition program.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, you can
contact Ashley Cabrera by email (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))
or by phone 615-837-5063.

[1] ReFED.
(2016). “A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent”. Retrieved from

[2] Gunders,
D. (2017). “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from
Farm to Fork to Landfill”. Retrieved from

ReFED. (2018). “Retail Food Waste Action Guide”. Retrieved from

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2019 - 12:27:00