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Food For Thought: How to Tackle the Food Waste Problem

Samantha Donaldson

No one wants to be a statistic, especially when that statistic is related to the environmental issues that the world is facing today. However, a lot of people are completely unaware of how much they truly waste when it comes to food and energy and the massive impacts of their actions. Still, this is 2017 and what better way to start of the new year than by learning more about what you waste and how you can make a change for the better starting immediately?

Food Waste: The Nitty-Gritty

It may not seem like it when you enter a grocery store, but ten percent of any given retail location’s food, roughly 43 billion pounds of food a year, is thrown in the trash annually. When you enter this store, you probably grab your essentials and then head to the guilty pleasure sections full of candies and treats.

How to End Food Waste

Although this is the way most Americans shop (for pleasure rather than necessity), these extra food items are often afterthoughts and are commonly tossed away half-eaten at the end of the day. With this being said, the amount of food waste in the American household not including packaged treats adds up to a whopping fourteen percent making for an annual loss of over 43 million dollars.

Similarly, when you enter a restaurant, you may find yourself yet again ordering more for pleasure than necessity. However, by doing so, you may be choosing items that are often too large to finish and wasting massive amounts of restaurant food in the process. Although one meal may not seem like much, a 2005 study at the University of Arizona stated that this food waste averages out to over 49 million pounds of food waste in full service restaurants and over 85 million pounds in fast food restaurants yearly.

How to End Food Waste - Fast Food Waste

In fact, America is the leading nation in food waste with over 1.3 billion tons of food wasted annually averaging out to forty percent of all of America’s food going into the dumpster. These staggering numbers are backed by an insane loss in money yearly as well with $197.7 billion lost annually (according to a report done by the Barilla Center For Food and Nutrition (BCFN) in 2012)  from the food that is wasted likewise.

Despite all of this, in 2015, 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households and 43.1 million lived in poverty. By doing your part to reduce the food waste in America and knowing what this waste does to our economy, environment, and our culture, we can begin this year as a healthier, less hunger-stricken nation that is making a true impact on the statistics they all too often ignore.

How to End Food Waste - High Priority Sustainability Issue

But, it’s biodegradable, right?

One of the main reasons Americans do not take into account the food they waste yearly is because of the fact that they assume that the items are biodegradable and, therefore, cannot harm our environment. However, this is not the case at all. In fact, when this wasted food enters landfills, it begins to rot emitting methane (a potent greenhouse gas that is 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide) and this rotting process is responsible yearly for 135 million tons of greenhouse gases according to an infographic released by Food Waste Stats.

On top of this, the food is supplied by countless farms and the supplies they use to grow this food is then wasted in the process likewise. In fact, a quarter of all freshwater and 300 million barrels of oil are wasted yearly on these food items and, on top of this, the process it takes to turn nitrogen into a form that plants can use wastes an excessive amount of energy with 100-200 pounds needed per acre making food waste on the farm yet another issue we face.

Food For Thought- How to Stop the Food Waste Problem

Tips to reduce your food waste.

So, now you may be rethinking tossing those leftovers from Olive Garden but how do you actually make an impact in your life when it comes to reducing food waste? Luckily, there are plenty of simple ways to reduce food waste that can actually save you money in the process too.

  • Plan your shopping trips

It’s easy to buy more perishable items than you need but if you plan your meals ahead of time, you will likely purchase the right amount of ingredients so that you won’t need to throw so much out come the end of the week. Doing this exercise also helps you reduce your grocery bill.

Food For Thought- How to Tackle the Food Waste Problem

  • Discuss food intake with your doctor

Discussing your food intake with your doctor can help you to recognize food that may not be essential and help you to decrease the risk of wasting food on a day-to-day basis in the process. Once you know what isn’t necessary, you can put the Twinkies down and wait for your next important meal instead.

  • Pick smaller items from the menu

Although eating out is often a time for celebration, your meal doesn’t have to be a giant burger or steak. Instead, by looking for smaller meals that you know you will finish, you can decrease your restaurant food waste and also ensure that you aren’t paying for food you aren’t eating as well.

We recommend asking the wait staff about portion sizes when ordering meals so you get a better indication of how much food will be served and can plan accordingly.

How to Reduce Food Waste

  • Donate to your local shelter

Although it can often be difficult to follow the laws regarding food donations at shelters, by donating amazing meals and even grocery store items you know you won’t use, you can help the millions of Americans facing hunger and lower your food waste levels in the process. However, if you aren’t sure of what is okay to donate and what is not, you may want to read the legal guide to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act in order to prevent dealing with a messy injury case in the future.

 

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About the author

Samantha Donaldson

Samantha Donaldson

Samantha Donaldson is a freelance journalist in Boise, Idaho as well as the owner of Idaho’s largest music magazine, Boise Pulse Music, and the founder of Boise Food Salvage, an organization dedicated to taking food waste and turning it into amazing meals for homeless shelters.

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