Throwing out food, throwing out money
Wasted food is a hot topic these days and for good reason. We’re not talking about food scraps or compost here, but edible food. Food that could have been eaten if it didn’t get slimy or moldy, if we had planned better, or been more realistic about menu planning and shopping. Visit the Master Composter Recycler website for additional resources.
Wasted food means wasted money, as well as resources. Growing food requires a lot of energy and resources, with many externalized costs (i.e. water, gas and fertilizers) that should not be taken lightly or for granted.
Consumers are responsible for more wasted food than any other point in the food system. This has become the case only in the last 40–50 years. Going back even further, “leftovers” was not a category of food in the 19th century (until the advent of the refrigerator), as using up food was fundamental and normal. It wasn’t until the country started to prosper and people felt a sense of abundance, that leftovers became a bit of a joke, and dinnertime was met with grumbles if food made a repeat appearance.
As if we need another compelling reason to care about wasted food, consider world hunger and how many people experience food insecurity in our country. “In the United States, reducing losses by one-third would save enough food to equal the total diets of all 50 million food-insecure Americans — if only this food could actually be captured and distributed to them.” (Gunders)
What’s being done?
Recent public awareness about the amount of food we collectively waste has spurred research, campaigns, discussion, and resolutions — all in the name of changing both consumer behavior and the overall loss of food in our food system. The U.K. has launched a widespread public awareness campaign, “Love Food Hate Waste”, with a helpful website. In the U.S., the EPA and USDA set goals in 2015 to halve food waste by 2030.
Dana Gunders from the Natural Resources Defense Council urges in her book, Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, to become a “food-waste warrior!” Her book is packed full of interesting information and helpful tips, some of which we have highlighted here.
What you can do
You can help reduce waste in your home using a variety of methods. Examples include shopping for less food more frequently to prevent spoilage; learning when food goes bad and understanding sell by, use by, and expiration dates; buying imperfect produce; storing and cooking food with an eye to reduce waste; freezing unused ingredients and leftovers; serving smaller portions and getting creative with leftovers.
Whatever form your food waste prevention takes, remember not to be too hard on yourself. No one is perfect and change takes time. Try focusing on one behavior change at a time and see how it goes!