On Wednesday, as we reported earlier this week, the Food Policy Action Network and its cofounder, Tom Colicchio, visited Congress in Washington, D.C., to discuss the growing problem of food waste in America — estimated to be a $200 billion scourge on our economy, according to Colicchio. One of the chefs in Colicchio’s delegation was Steven Satterfield, who talked to Food Republic shortly after returning to his restaurant, Miller Union, in Atlanta. Satterfield repeated the FPAN’s statistic suggesting that Americans throw out 40 percent of their food; if chefs did that, he points out, “We wouldn’t have a business.” Thus, they headed to DC to share their insights. Here are key takeaways via Satterfield’s firsthand experience:

On what went down in D.C.:
“Several chefs gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with Senate and House members. It was in tandem with a full Agriculture Committee hearing on food waste. It was unprecedented. They split us into groups and we lobbied for consideration of a bill coming down the pipeline to make some progress with this huge problem we have in America.”

On the problem with labeling of packaged goods (one of the topics discussed):
“Packaged foods that have date labels on them are often discarded. We addressed that with the government officials. Date labeling is handled by the manufacturers and not the government, so it’s kind of all over the place in terms of standards. [Labeling] often represents what the manufacturer thinks would be best for food quality but not always food safety. So it prohibits stores from donating because of the perceived lack of safety when in fact the food could be perfectly fine.”

What chefs and food activists hoped to achieve on Capitol Hill:
“Just making [government officials] stop and think about it is a good first step. They understand that we’re business owners and chefs and we took time out of our busy schedules to talk about this. Nobody wants to see food go in the trash, and nobody thinks it’s okay to not feed hungry people. It’s a bipartisan problem that I think we’ll see some unanimous decisions on. The biggest issue is how we get there.”

On how his involvement in the food-waste issue has increased since publishing his cookbook, Root to Leaf, last year:
“It’s a natural progression, and I like that it’s gone in this direction because when you can get behind something and make change, it makes your work matter a lot more. Instead of just going to work and feeding people who pay for the experience, you’re able to shape the whole future of food in America, and that’s something that feels powerful to me.”

For more information on the food-waste issue and a report on how to find solutions to the problem, visit refed.com.