Waste is piling up all around the world — food waste that is!
We may not be aware, but food waste has become a crisis, not just locally but globally.
Because there are still many people who are hungry and areas of the world where food is in short supply, it seems a paradox — and a shame — then how much food is wasted each year.
30% of all food produced is wasted!
Helping reduce food waste should be something we all try to do and also advocate for change in places where food goes into the trash, such as grocery stores and restaurants.
Finding a solution to help reduce the 133 billion pounds of food being tossed out each year is something with which we can all have a role.
Size of The Pile
Food waste is growing.
In 2010, for example, Americans threw out 40% of the food they bought.
30% of that was produce.
That is the equivalent of $400 a year per person as food loss, not to mention 2% of energy consumption used to produce and waste the food.
Almost 20 pounds per person per week is wasted in the US.
When we break these figures down into consumable calories, we realize that 1 in 4 calories produced are not eaten due to food waste.
How You Can Reduce the Pile
Each family can help reduce the amount of food waste in their own kitchen.
Some of these small changes can also impact your food budget!
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Take only what you think you will be able to eat, then finish what is on your plate.
- Plan your menu and the ingredients you will need before you shop to avoid overbuying foods that spoil before you can use them.
- Manage the food in your pantry by rotating your stock using expiration dates. Food that will expire soon should be up front and used first.
- Compost your kitchen scraps.
- Use produce that is beginning to wilt or freeze it for later use.
- Take a doggy bag for leftovers in a restaurant and eat them the next day instead of throwing it out.
- Ask the server not to bring a bread basket to the table if you don’t plan to eat it.
- Encourage grocery stores to send unused/unsold food to food bank or farm to compost there.
- Embrace ‘ugly produce.’ Our food doesn’t have to look perfect to contain nutrition. Even a misshapen tomato or crooked carrot is worthy of being on our plate rather than in the trash.
- Donate any foods that will expire before you can use them at home to a local food pantry so that they can be used by someone else before the expiration date.
The top 5 household foods wasted are bread, potatoes, milk, meals, and carbonated drinks.
Initiatives Helping Reduce the Pile
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has many ongoing initiatives aimed at reducing food waste and the amount of food being sent to landfills.
Here are just a few of the initiatives currently underway:
- Consumer education as part of ChooseMyPlate.gov helping consumers learn how to reduce their own food waste.
- Developed the FoodKeeper App to provide consumers with an option to access clear, scientific information on food storage, proper storage temperatures, food product dating, and expiration dates.
- Facilitating on-farm storage of post-harvest produce for farmers of a variety of commodities through loans.
- Streamlining procedures for donating wholesome but misbranded meat and poultry products by allowing establishments to donate these products without temporary label approval.
- Help increase donations to charitable organizations, such as foodbanks, of wholesome fresh imported produce that is subject to destruction or rejection because it does not meet the same or comparable federal marketing order standards as the domestic product.
- USDA’s Agricultural Research Service supports innovation by conducting, often in collaboration with industry and academic partners, research on new technologies for reducing spoilage of fresh foods and the development of new products from waste materials at food processing facilities.
- Measure plate waste in School Foodservice Nutrition Program and create processes that minimize food waste in schools.
- Began composting its own food waste from the headquarters to serve as a role model for other agencies and corporations.
The first step in reducing your family’s wasted food is to determine where your largest areas of loss occur.
Do you throw out unused produce that starts to wilt?
Do you cook more food than you need and then throw out leftovers?
Do you buy more than you can cook and eat each week, then end up tossing it at the end of the week?
Do you forget about food in the pantry and find it past its expiration date?
Do you eat out and leave the food you purchased aging out in the refrigerator or pantry?
These and many other instances of food waste can be remedied when we observe the gaps in our food handling process.
Buying less, planning more and becoming aware of ways we can help solve the problem of the growing pile of wasted food will help not only our budgets but the environment as well!
The Earth thanks you!