Produced but Never Eaten: Food Waste Solutions

June 07, 2016

Hardly a day goes by when I’m not reminded of agricultural sustainability and how food waste affects every country. It’s in the news, social media, on company websites and in my personal email.

But sometimes it can be difficult to understand the scope of the issue and what we can do about it. That’s why I appreciate The Guardian’s interactive visual guide to food waste to help us relate.

Look through it and you’ll see that each year approximately 1.3 billion tons of food, about a third of all that is produced globally, is never eaten; it’s almost too much to comprehend. It’s astounding that 45 percent of all fruits and vegetables, 35 percent of fish and seafood, 30 percent of cereals, 20 percent of dairy products and 20 percent of meat produced in the world is wasted. That’s why reducing food waste helps ease the burden on resources as the world attempts to meet future demand for a growing population.

In contrast to developing countries where most food loss is due to poor equipment, transportation or infrastructure, it’s the average person, like you and me, who shoulders a greater share of the responsibility for food waste in developed countries like the U.S.

“Consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores, restaurants or any part of the food supply chain,” according to the Save the Food campaign initiated by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Ad Council. This public service ad of the extraordinary life and times of strawberry tugs on heartstrings as it depicts an all-too-familiar scenario being played out in American homes. It reminds us that an uneaten strawberry wastes the water, fertilizer and fuel used to produce it. Did you know that according to the NRDC:

  • Up to 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted, according to one model
  • 90 percent of us occasionally throw away food too soon  
  • Each of us tosses nearly 300 pounds of food each year

It may make us uncomfortable to realize that we are part of the problem. But we are also the solution. If you doubt this, just take a look at some of the case studies on EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy website. Individuals, organizations and institutions have used their ingenuity and hard work to reclaim food that was destined for landfills. My colleague, Jean Ragalie-Carr, RDN, LDN, FAND, has been writing a series of blog posts to educate and raise awareness about the many ways you, your organization, or institution can get involved to reduce waste at the source, feed hungry people, feed animals, redirect food waste for industrial use and use it for composting.

We can solve the problem of food waste if we all embrace the solutions that make the most sense for ourselves and our families.

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