It’s guest post time! Food waste has gotten out of hand and there are actions we can all take to mitigate this colossal problem. I couldn’t think of a better person to pen a guest post on food waste than my good friend, dietitian and sustainable food crusader Chris Vogliano. Read more about his great work in his bio at the end of this post.
Americans are throwing away 40% of all of the food grown. How could we possibly be discarding close to half of all of the food we produce? What are the consequences of throwing away food?
Throwing away food has three major implications:
- Financial – Throwing away food is expensive. The average consumer throws away 23 pounds of food each month. This adds up quick. In fact, the average family of four throws away an estimated $190 of food per month.
- Humanitarian– When we toss food, we miss an opportunity to divert food from the landfill to the 1 in 6 Americans who are considered to be food insecure – meaning they often times do not have enough food to feed themselves or their families.
- Environmental – Agriculture covers a huge portion of the globe’s surface, consumes 80% of the world’s fresh water and pumps a significant amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – jeopardizing our ecological biodiversity, causing the destruction of rainforests and contributing to the extinction of countless species.
Wasted food happens along the entire food supply chain, but consumers are among the highest contributors. That means we all share the social, economical and environmental obligation to waste less food.
So wasting food is bad for my wallet and the planet – what can I do to help?
- Read labels – Over 90% of consumers report that they throw away food because they are confused about the expiration dates of foods. Most foods don’t actually contain an expiration date – the date you see on the food packaging is a best by, sell by or use by date. These dates are not safety dates; they indicate when the food passes it peak quality. Check out stilltasty.com to see how long foods are safe to eat after these dates (assuming the food is stored properly). Pro tip: Avoid guessing games by writing the date the food was opened directly on the package.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew – Often times we buy in bulk (think big box stores like Costco). Sometimes this can seem like a great deal, but many times we end up wasting more food than we otherwise would have if we purchased a smaller amount to begin with. Notice what you discard most often and try to buy less of it. This will save you significant amounts of money. Pro tip: If you have a variety of produce that is going to spoil in the next few days, make a stir-fry or soup or freeze your produce to toss into a smoothie later!
- Help a neighbor – If you have extra food that is safe to eat but will not be eaten, donate it to your local food pantry or food bank. You can locate your nearest food collection center at feedingamerica.org. There are many hungry neighbors in your area that would gladly eat your extra food. Food banks specifically are seeking healthier foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein foods such as beans and lentils. Non-perishable foods are best, and these can include items like peanut butter, dry beans, brown rice and canned fruits and vegetables. Pro tip: If you don’t have food to donate, but want to help out a neighbor, donate money to your local food bank. Monetary donations allow food banks to purchase exactly what they need and in bulk pricing.
Check out these great resources for more information and thanks for reading! #nofoodwaste
- The Waste Free Kitchen Handbook. Written by The Natural Resources Defense Council staff scientist Dana Gunders, this essential guide—packed with engaging checklists, creative recipes, practical strategies and educational infographics—offers easy ways to save food and money.
- Love Food Hate Waste. This UK-based nonprofit has a mission to end consumer driven food waste. Its website provides a variety of free ideas and resources to help curb wasted food.
- The United States Department of Agriculture has created a variety of free, consumer-friendly resources to help reduce wasted food in our homes.
- C. Central Kitchen, LA Kitchen, and Campus Kitchens are nonprofit organizations that focus on recovering food and turning it into meals for low-income community members.
Chris Vogliano is an environmentally-focused registered dietitian who is creating a more sustainable, waste-free, and equitable food system. Chris has created programming for food recovery non-profits, drafted legislation, published scientific articles and has given numerous presentations to follow the notion that food can be healthy for both people and our planet. In 2014, Chris was selected to be the first Agriculture, Nutrition, and Health Research Fellow with The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Chris was awarded “Young Dietitian of the Year” by Washington State, and was also recognized as “Today’s Dietitian Magazine’s” 10 RDs who are making a difference. His extended bio can be found on his website Ethical Food Warrior.