According to Dana Gunders, Executive Director of ReFED, by 2050 the United Nations estimates we will need 50 percent more food for the increased population than we need today. Where will the extra food come from? Lessons from Stop Food Waste Day may help us all individually contribute to the solution!
The 2021 virtual event “Stop Food Waste: Driving Awareness to Fight Food Waste” hosted by Food Tank on Stop Food Waste Day, featured over 35 industry leaders offering solutions in how we solve food loss and food waste.
The overall message? Addressing our food system today and preventing waste is critical.
Why do we have food waste in the US?
According to a report from ReFED, the United States has 126 billion pounds of wasted food annually. That’s around thirty-five percent of food that went unsold or uneaten by consumers.
Actions that contribute heavily to massive food waste are:
- over-shopping: consumers buy more food than needed which leads to spoilage
- bigger portions: consumers order or receive too much food at restaurants, excess is often thrown away
- farm surplus: food on farms is not harvested due to surplus in the market and/or blemished and irregular produce is discarded
- restaurant surplus: food produced is not sold and is thrown away and/or edible parts of meat or produce are not used in a recipe and are discarded
Studies tend to not include home garden waste, which is another issue. Many gardeners over-grow and toss the abundant yield, do not compost, or may even preserve too much produce and wind up discarding excess later.
We live in a country with an abundance of food resources. Yet according to ReFED, one in six Americans are in the food insecurity category. We clearly have a need to figure out how to turn around our food waste around to provide solutions.
How can we help prevent food waste?
One easy way to help is to support organizations like Food Tank, ReFED, and Ample Harvest who are helping to bring awareness to this issue and find solutions via farming technology improvements and shared resources. If we prevent a lot of food from being wasted in the first place, it solves a good chunk of the problem.
As individuals, we can take steps to help solve the problem, too. Actions that help reduce food waste are:
- buy less: create a realistic shopping list and use it each week rather than shopping on impulse. If you already use a shopping list, work on reducing your shopping list to only purchase what you truly need for the week. Buying in bulk makes sense if you use the item daily, but occasional use items are best purchased only when needed in smaller quantities.
- use all edible parts of food: don’t discard things like leafy greens, vegetable peels, or carrot tops, use them in salads or recipes. You’ll find a variety of recipes that make use excess produce at https://www.stopfoodwasteday.com/en/recipes.html There’s even recipes for banana peel biscuits and broccoli stalk hummus!
- compost: if you cannot use all your produce scraps, compost them to help feed your garden or landscape plants.
- share: have too much food in your cupboards or an extra-large garden harvest? Offer your resources to family, neighbors and friends to help reduce their weekly shopping needs. Or, contact your local food bank to learn about ways to donate food to your community members in need.
- order less: when you go out to eat, try to only order enough food that you will reasonably eat. If you order an excess, take the leftovers home and eat them or repurpose into other dishes. Items like leftover rice can easily be worked into many dishes. If you have Netflix, check out the show “Best Leftovers Ever!” for inspiration. Or just run a Google search for “how to use leftover _(fill in the blank)__” for ideas.
- track your food waste: we often don’t even realize how much food we throw away. If you want a clear understanding of what you are tossing out, keep a running list for a month. You may be very surprised and it may encourage you to be more mindful about your habits and give you ideas of how to prevent food waste. For example, if you find out that you are throwing away spoiled milk on a regular basis you could start buying smaller containers of milk or think of other ways to use the excess milk by making puddings or homemade ice cream. Which could then reduce your purchases of these items at the grocer each month.
- encourage family participation: engage your family to be more mindful of the food on their plates and how much food is thrown away. Encourage kids to garden with you or visit a local farm to help them gain an understanding of the plant-earth connection.
Author Enrique Salmon (“Eating The Landscapes”) sums it up very eloquently (in the “Stop Food Waste” video): “We need an awareness that we are directly related to everything around us. Recognize that we share our spirit with everything around us. We share breath with the plants and animals. We all come from the same cosmic matter. This awareness leads to respect for our food sources.”
Let’s make every day a Stop Food Waste Day!