Updated: Sep 21, 2022
It’s Stop Food Waste Day, since this affects so many things in our world, I thought we should take a moment and talk about it. When I first started writing something for this day, I was going to just give an update on the meal plan we have been doing but in the back of my mind the question “what is food waste really? what all does it account for? does it include throwing out excess food you grew?”
Of course, what does one do when they have a question? Google. Down the rabbit hole, I went, and it was an interesting one. What did I find out?
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What Is Food Waste and Why Should I Care?
According to WWF’s article, Fight Climate Change by Preventing Food Waste, “Today, an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste. That’s equal to about 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, and grains that either never leave the farm, get lost or spoiled during distribution, or are thrown away in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens. It could be enough calories to feed every undernourished person on the planet.”
The UNWFP puts it in terms that are a bit easier to understand “Roughly 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted, which works out to more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.”
That is a lot of food not being consumed or used in a “viable” way. One would think given what we see on TV that there is a food shortage. From these articles, it seems that there isn’t a shortage of food but instead a mishandling of food issues.
Not only is all this food not being consumed but it is also creating other issues like the amount of carbon dioxide it produces. As the WWF points out, “About 6%-8% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced if we stop wasting food. In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.” As if that didn’t say enough the UNWFP’s article, 8 Facts to Know About Food Waste and Hunger states, “If wasted food were a country, it would be the third largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world, after the U.S. and China.”
This is a bigger issue than I had realized.
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Why is this happening?
We already know from the information above that a lot of food is wasted during distribution, in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, and schools which we may not be able to do much about. The last one on the list was the home kitchen. This one we have control over.
What is happening in our kitchens?
According to PELA, “The most common reasons for food waste at home are buying too much, improper storage, forgetting about food in the fridge, or simply cooking so much food it is not consumed.” Most of us probably knew this and try to reduce this as much as possible. The next nugget of knowledge, many may not be aware of, “Another common reason for food waste at home is tossing food due to a misunderstanding about labeling concerning the best date to use the food. The terms “best buy date”, “use by date”, and “sell-by date” can be confusing. With the exception of infant formula, these dates can be arbitrary and are voluntary labels. They do not refer to the safety of the food. Instead, the dates refer to the date the food is still at its freshest and the taste is the best.”
Go ahead and read that again. Yes, that is correct the only date on food that is regulated is on baby formula. The rest of the dates are the manufactures best guess at when the food won’t be at its best.
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What can I do?
A simple yet very helpful tip is to label all your food with the date you purchased it. With this information, you can use the free app created by the USDA called FoodKeeper. It can help you determine how long things last from the time of purchase.
If you are in the food business, here are two programs that may be of interest to you:
“The United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) Zero Post-Harvest Losses project sells low-cost, locally produced grain silos to farmers and provides them with training on post-harvest crop management in five key areas: Harvesting, drying, threshing, solarization, and storage.” – UNWFP
“EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge offers participants access to data management software and technical assistance to help them quantify and improve their sustainable food management practices. Participants enter goals and report food waste diversion data annually into EPA’s data management system. They then receive an annual climate profile report that translates their food diversion data results into greenhouse gas reductions as well as other measures such as “cars off the road” to help participants communicate the benefits of activities implemented. EPA provides ongoing technical assistance to EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge participants to encourage continuous improvement.” – USDA
Many websites can give you suggestions on how to stop food waste, including the ones referenced in this post. I have found many of them unhelpful so in the next section, I will talk about what I do.
EveryPlate box of food Photo by Athena Herder
What I’m Doing to Stop Food Waste
A few months ago, I signed up for a meal service. They send you everything you need to make the meals, you can read about it in the post EveryPlate, Loving It. This has decreased our waste overall not just our food waste.
When I decided to try EveryPlate, I was sick of the “what’s for dinner” issue. I hadn’t thought of the other perks that I might get out of it. Before EveryPlate, I would throw out a lot of food every other week before doing the shopping trip. They send you almost everything you need for each meal.
There are times when there might be some of an ingredient left over but it is so little and rare. This means I have a lot less in my pantry or refrigerator taking up space rotting. The meal plans are based on the number of servings. This is nice since this means there are rarely leftovers to sit in the frig to rot. My family doesn’t seem to be big on eating leftovers.
I also give each person $30 a shopping trip for their own food needs. There are always options in the house, but this is to ensure that they eat what comes into the house. It has worked wonderfully.
To get the freezer and refrigerator under control, I added boxes. You can get them at Walmart or Dollar Tree. Each shelf has two to four clear plastic boxes to hold everything. This makes it easier to get things out. You can pull the whole box, and it is great for making sure you are using the oldest stuff first. Bonus, things don’t get lost in the back of the frig or freezer anymore. I have the pantry done with the same plastic boxes and glass jars.
What do you do to help stop food waste?