Wasted. A primer.

No joke, food waste is a huge problem.  40% of American food is lost from the farm to the plate.  That’s almost half!  Much of this food is edible.  It isn’t old, rotten, or damaged.    Restaurants that have to keep prepared food “fresh” end up throwing out large amounts of food that are hours, or even minutes too old.  Best before dates that aren’t appropriate, government regulations making it impossible to give this food to food banks, and marketing schemes that encourage buying bulk all contribute to the problem.   Food over-stock in grocery stores, slightly damaged containers and produce that is the wrong size, shape, color or consistency are just thrown away.

All of these contribute to a horrifying amount of good food being thrown out.  Food is also thrown out at the production level.  Farmers will grow extra to make sure they have the appropriate quantity to fulfill a contract.  If there is extra, the food is simply disposed of.  And in a world where a billion people go hungry everyday, the surplus of food that is being thrown out is unacceptable.

Check out this trailer for a new movie called Taste the Waste.

Food waste in the home is also a problem.  The average American throws away 14% of the food he buys. Buying bulk, buying on a whim (as opposed to a list), and poor planning can be blamed for much of the waste.

Why should you care?   You aren’t starving.

Food waste isn’t just a problem for the starving.  Methane gas is produced by rotting food.  Methane gas is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide.  Food rotting in the landfills is as much of a problem for you as it is for anyone else.

The billions of dollars the US is putting into the disposal of wasted food is also a problem of yours.  These tax dollars would be better spent just about anywhere else, including feeding hungry people.

And not to be left out, food isn’t the only thing being wasted.  According to TreeHugger, ten trillion gallons of water is wasted to produce the uneaten food in the US.  That’s enough water to meet the needs of 5 million families.

A Solution?

Because of distribution, regulation and efficiency problems, there isn’t an easy fix.  Pushing our government to work together with these companies to find a solution is one of the things the average citizen can do.  Things can be done.  Triplepundit states various ways that businesses could cut back on waste:
  • Less emphasis on the appearance of food. Supermarkets pay premium for vegetables and fruits that look a certain way and are of uniform size. Any produce that does not meet these criteria is often discarded. Shop at farmer’s markets or lobby your local supermarket to have a ‘discarded’ produced aisle.
  • Better supply chains ensure that fresh food is only brought in when needed to ensure less wastage. The best way to find out about supply chains is to speak to your local store manager and find out what they throw out and how much. Then you can find out if the store is willing to donate the wasted food to a homeless shelter etc.
  • Western cultures are encouraged to stockpile on food with offers like “buy one get one free,” “three for two” etc.  This is something that consumers should be aware of – do you really need the extra food?
  • Wasted food can and should be converted to compost wherever possible.
  • Donation of excess or unwanted food is also a good way to control food waste.
These things will need to be dealt with at a government level, though.  If there are no regulations to control it, it will never get any better.
You have much more control about food waste in the home.  Watch for upcoming posts on what you can do at home to waste less food.  You CAN make a difference.
“When I didn’t know, I didn’t care. Now I can’t “un-know”, so I have to care.” -Common Sense Homesteading

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