An alarming 1.3 billion metric tons of food get’s thrown out each year in America between the farmers, retailers, and consumers. All while 48.1 mil Americans have food insecurities and a total of 795 mil people in the world are hungry. So why is all this food going to waste if so many people are suffering from hunger? Here’s why:
- The Farmers: Farmers also deal with hunger themselves. Due to their vulnerability to the environment, farmers are more susceptible to drought, epidemics, or pests who could ruin their food supply. But farmers are also to blame for discarding a lot of food. Due to standards of the retailers and supermarkets, farmers have to toss produce that doesn’t fit standards of color, weight or shape. They also leave all produce that falls on the ground before harvest.
- The Retailers: As mentioned before, the farmers must meet the retailers standards for the appearance of the food. These standards are high due to customer demand and the retailers need to make profit. No blemishes or bruises, no odd coloring, and no shapes that do not fit the expected shape of that fruit or vegetable. In fact, approximately 17% of the food thrown out is just vegetables. And that is usually just because a consumer would bypass that vegetable for one that “looks better”. Looks better? Really? It’s not the oscars and you are not picking out a dress, it is a cucumber…
- The Household: Of that $165 billion worth of food waste, approximately 1/3 is being wasted in the household alone. There are a number of factors contributing to why so much food is being wasted in the home. This includes cheap prices, grocery store deals, “family pack” size quantities, but most importantly not having proper knowledge of food and how to interpret the dates.
Luckily there are organizations and groups of people who do rescue this food waste and use it to feed their families or a large number of the hungry. Here is a list of organizations and what they do to help:
- Hidden Harvest where the group rescues produce that is left behind in the fields and orchards after harvest. This organization feeds 50,000 hungry people in the Coachella Valley, CA alone.
- Global Hunger Foundation who’s job is to alleviate hunger from women and children of several communities around the world living in the developing countries such as; Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania, El Salvador, and Niger.
- Hands for Hunger gathers unused or potential trash food from grocery stores, hotels, and businesses in the Bahamas and brings it to low income residences.
- Culinary Misfits is a couple of catering chefs who pick the “ugly vegetables” from grocery stores that would normally go unwanted and turn them into their gourmet meals.
- Dumpster Divers. Whether you are homeless, hungry, or just know your local grocery store throws out way too much edible food to pass up, dumpster divers are everywhere and they are smart. They have saved money on groceries that are better and more expensive then they would typically eat if boughten at the store.
- & More…
But those organizations helping aren’t enough. There are plenty of ways you can help in reducing the tons and tons of food wasted every year.
You can start at the home. Make a grocery list instead of guessing what you need while there. This will prevent you from doubling grocery items or buying something you do not need. Another step is portion control, make as much as you can eat. You can also freeze grocery items like meat, fruit, and by placing herbs and greens in ice cubes. This will allow your food to last longer. Know that the expiration, sell by, or best used by dates are when that item is expected to be at it’s very best, that does not mean after that date, throw it out. If it smells fine, looks fine, and is not growing mold, then it is probably good to eat.
You can follow up by asking your grocery store what they do with their waste. Many grocery stores may not answer or disclose such information, but it is worth a shot. Ask and encourage them to make a trip to a local feeding shelter for homeless and hungry. Or volunteer yourself to take as much of the food that will be thrown out that night and drive it to a shelter. And last but not least, stop being so picky about your fruits and vegetables at the store, they all taste the same no matter what shape or color they are. Just remember, Bananas are best when bruised and freckled!
- Putting A Dollar Value on Food Waste Estimates
- Food waste within food supply chains: quantification and potential for change to 2050
- How the U.S. manages to waste $165 billion in food each year
- Hidden Harvest
- Global Hunger Foundation
- Culinary Misfits Rescue Fruits & Veggies that Supermarkets and Restaurants Reject
- Hands for Hunger
- 21 Inspiring Initiatives Working to Reduce Food Waste Around the World