The World Wastes Half Its Food!

| 8/25/2008 9:44:34 AM

Tags: water, world hunger,

What a Waste! 

Wasted Food

It’s hard to believe, but a 2008 policy brief from the Stockholm International Water Institute, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Water Management Institute states the world wastes nearly half the food it produces. That’s right — half. And because agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of our nation’s consumptive water usage, that amount of wasted food means even more wasted water at a time when many struggle to conserve. According to the three organizations, we're producing more than enough food to feed the growing world population; we just need to figure out how to put it all to use.

You may be thinking that this news has a brilliant silver lining, and you'd be correct. We already produce enough food to feed the world. That’s a relief, but now for the tough part: How do we get the world to make better use of its food resources? 


jamie k._1
8/19/2010 11:02:30 AM

The HOA concept is one of the worst problems out there. "Can't compost, can't grow a veggie, can't dry your close on a line, have to use Chemlawn, etc....". If you care about the environment, don't live there or work very hard (good luck) to get the rules changed. Unfortunately most environmental education curricula in schools is about rain forests and oceans and safari animals - oh my! Not much out there for "real life" experiences such as the food system. When budgets are tight, guess which curriculum gets the axe first? I am fortunate enough to work as a non-formal educator who gives presentations to schools about soil/water resources and where real food comes from. We have a large garden and agricultural conservation area for kids (many from inner-city) for hands-on experience. We often get teachers who say "I didn't know potatoes grow under ground" and other statements of basic lack of understanding about food and the environment. If they don't know, how can they teach kids about it? With most people being "too busy" to even bother serving real food, this idea of "cheap assembly line factory food a-plenty" keeps the illusion that we can just keep making more with no inputs or consequences.

8/9/2010 12:08:11 AM

I grew up in a rural area, on a small family farm and many of its associated animals. As an adult, however, I now live in a city, under the strictures of a HOA. Unfortunately, our HOA and city have rules in place that limit what kind and how many animals we may own, as well as what kind of plants we may use in visible places for landscaping. We DO compost anything we can and I try to make use of other leftovers as dog food or in soups and stews. I actually LIKE the large serving sizes at many restaurants, as the leftovers usually will serve my family of 5 for at least one, and usually more, additional meal. I like that, as it means I get a break from being the resident "chief cook and bottle washer". I grew up spending a good portion of each year with grandparents who were born before WWI and lived through both it, the Great Depression, and WWII and ALL the difficulties they entailed. I try to live up to the thrifty lessons they handed down to my parents and to my self. We all need to teach these lessons at home and in school.

pc mcb
8/5/2010 1:08:57 PM

There are many good points here, but one point has been completely overlooked. Restaurants. Have you every gone out for family dining and noticed the amount of food that gets loaded on to every plate. Half of it is left on the plate. Especially by small children. It's true that we should teach our children not to overeat, but we should also refuse to eat where they consistently overload a plate. Buy only what you can eat. It sends a strong message.

8/5/2010 11:34:34 AM

An old farmer (my dad) once told me "You can't eat blue grass" and I was often embarassed as a teenager to have green beans growing in our front yard. But now that I'm an adult I realize how ridiculous it is that all most Americans want to grow is a non-native, non-edible form of grass in their yards. My goal is to make the most use out of my yard that I can. Learning how to mix and hide vegetable plants in my front flower beds has been beautiful and rewarding. I have small children and they enjoy helping mommy in the garden. I agree with the other readers that throwing food away that I have grown and canned myself is especially discouraging. I also find it disturbing that only 100 years ago almost EVERYONE knew how to grow ALL of their own food. Now think of how many people can not or will not grow even a portion of their own food.

bryon d
8/4/2010 5:00:41 PM

The issues is not what individually we do, but what the masses do, if only 25% contribute to reducing waste, then we accomplished very little.. just as going green, we need to educate, inform, address the issues, in our towns, communities, state and have it federally assisted. scraps, food waste, slightly spoiled foods need to be seperated and moved quickly before its usefulness is wasted.. acknowledgement of our children being trained and educated from the beginning is a start, food can be contributed and donated to raising pigs and maximizing their usefulness, raw scraps into composting, consider the wealth the food industry could contribute to this.. vegetable scraps and spoiled items, extended use of leftovers into useful items, soup, stews.. assist in feeding the poor, soup kitchens.. the amount of additional work that it would require, is nothing to its benefits.. its a mass issue.. educate, train, acknowledge and re-train the American people, we lived too good for too long.. slightly spoiled and bruised fruits and vegetables are just dumped rather than continued being use elsewhere.... we need congressional intervention to help us achieve these standards, giving breaks or discounts to those who contribute... We can all do our own thing, but we gain nothing if our neighbor waste continues.. tell a friend, suggest it to your city officials, question the possibilities to your congressmen and legistature.. we can start today.. and gain daily..

8/4/2010 4:51:09 PM

Fresh veggies are delicious steamed in a microwave and it takes less energy and time to do it that way compared to using your stovetop. Many fruits, such as pears and apples, are also delicious prepared in the microwave. I try to use size appropriate size bowls or pots so that I am not tempted to cook amounts too large just because the right portion sizes look "lost" in a big container.

8/4/2010 11:26:35 AM

I always think about "How can I use something thing twice?" I like to use stale chips, small pieces of cereal you have at the end of the bag, dry oatmeal, stale bread, stale nuts, fruit peels, or orange rinds to make suit cakes for my birds. They love it. I simply combine all dry ingredients and add enough Crisco and several tablespoons of peanut butter (melted in a saucepan on the stove) to the dry mixture to coat, then put into small containers and freeze. I hang these outside and reuse the wire basket I originally bought for hanging suit cakes. A good form is the plastic square container which held a store bought suit cake or any suitable plastic container.

8/4/2010 11:10:35 AM

Unless you have been living under a rock or in a cave for the last decade, you have to know that we waste too much food and eat too much of the wrong (processed) food. They do teach about the environment in public schools so I don't think we need to waste taxpayers money telling the public what they already know. The real facts are that Americans (in general) are fat and lazy. Fat from eating way too much of the wrong food (how many times does your doctor have to tell you your lifestyle is killing you?) or too lazy to buy fresh produce (locally if available) and cook it at home. I am on a very fixed income yet I manage to eat healthy. I COOK rather than microwave. So when people whine about the state of our country (5% of the world's population using 25% of the world's resources), we have no excuse.

alys kennedy_2
8/4/2010 11:07:50 AM

Some of our local schools have gardens for the children to plant and tend, that teaches them where food comes from and how good it is to have fresh food. A start in the right direction. Also, if you buy only local you are not buying processed foods, which is where a lot of waste occurs. And, if we all refused to buy processed foods it would make a difference. In addition to that, one can talk to their local grocer about what they throw away and how it could be beneficial to those in need, or to local livestock, such as chickens and pigs. Many of the people running those grocery stores have never been to a farm nor do they have a clue about how such things work.....educate them, and like someone else said, suggest they have a disclaimer if they fear being sued! Same thing goes for local restaurants, talk to them, they most likely don't have a clue, education is everything....and a little gentle persuasion is good too!

8/4/2010 10:44:07 AM

We are lucky enough to have a large garden, fruit trees and chickens. We need to buy very little from the store. We also have a grocer store that saves its outdated, bruised, etc produce for us and we feed it to the chickens. The stuff they don't eat - carrots, beets, apples, etc are put through a chipper/shredder so they are in smaller pieces and the chickens love them. What they don't eat are tilled into the ground. Next year that side of the garden will be planted and they will live on the other side. In the winter, I cook them a hot meal of the carrots, potatoes, etc with some added grain. They love it! It is a fair bit of work doing all this but I think it is important to do as much as I can not to waste food. Also I have the most contented chickens around.

kate phillips
8/4/2010 10:05:01 AM

yes. let's keep talking and sharing and setting the examples.. grandparents choose carefully what we offer as incentives and presents for the precious the what can grow in boxes, containers, gardens by the door, on the porch, along the way to the mailbox... we can do this... stop the madness of consumerism...share a carrot warm from the soil with a child and plant the green top for a promise to be aware... globally? support hungersite and others, give generously to strengthen the local entrepreneurs and educate the children...get serious about living with care..

terri talarek king_2
8/4/2010 9:28:32 AM

Amen to adding environmental science to school curriculum. It can be incorporated with other subjects, too, so students could see the connections (math, writing, social studies, etc.) Kids spend so much of their time in schools. I believe that it's important for schools to set an example/teach by example. Much food is wasted in school cafeterias. There need to be school gardens (with students taking responsibility for the work), school worm bins, and efforts put into place to not waste food. This way, students could see the natural cycle of food, some could be turned into compost for the garden (and to feed the worms), and a great educational experience would take place that would follow the individual students throughout their lives. Kids also influence their parents, too.

8/4/2010 8:02:43 AM

Living in an agricultural state, we have many roadside stands. I stop and ask for "seconds" before buying in grocery stores. This doesn't help with the "dairy," or meat aspect. I, also, check the "discount" rack in the grocery store. To "compost," I put the edible refuse on my lawn. Our Main grocery stores do NOT offer "gently used" produce to the public. It breaks my heart to see shopping carts full of produce headed for the dumpster. Their answer was, if we offer it and someone gets sick, we'll be sued. Haven't they heard of disclaimers?? My Mom shopped every other day. Of course, she was an "at home" Mom.

8/3/2010 6:19:41 PM

I just made a strict healthy and economical plan for myself that combines getting the most nutrients out of my food AND reducing my budget by cutting out all the unecessary bulk of purchased food items. I don't waste a thing. there are no guessing games as to what to buy, nor any lack of nutrients in my plan because I squeeze them all out. I utilize soups and juices. I KNOW what I need each day (veggies), each week (fruits and dairy), and each month (grains, flour, beans, and root vegetables). I adapted my plan to meet my goals both health and money-wise. Anyone could make a plan that saves them time and money on shopping. Did it say which countries were the worst offenders? I think the most affluent countries waste the most. When you don't have much to spend you eat every last scrap.

8/3/2010 8:20:48 AM

I have a large garden that my family eats out of. So I can agree with the other person who said it causes pain to see food wasted when you worked so hard for it! But we also use the food in a compost pile and some gets fed to the chickens. So we get great soil (that produces more food) and eggs/meat from our thrown away food leftovers. Even if you dont garden, make a worm compost bin and give away to a gardening friend they will LOVE YOU FOR LIFE! Also they are doing some amazing things with food waste creating methane gas from the rotting mass. There was a school campus taking leftovers from the school and converting it to methane for the lunch people to cook the food the next day. The technology is there, people are willing.... it just takes someone to step out of the box and actually DO IT.

8/3/2010 3:14:03 AM

And there seems to be some enjoyment and satisfaction in learning how not to be as wasteful as I used to be.

8/3/2010 3:13:19 AM

One of the more common themes I've heard is EDUCATION. That is probably the most accurate thing; and education needs to come from many sources, and needs to start with the very young. It's doubtful that the very old need much convincing; they probably lived through the Great Depression, or it's immediate aftermath. The very young are still impressionable, and if taught some conservation skills now, would most likely carry them through the rest of their lives. The problem is those whose ages fall inbetween; the late Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (AKA Millenials), etc. Here in the United States, an unfortunate side effect of being the land of freedom and plenty, is that most of us have never experienced life without either. We have decided that we must always have the newest and best of everything, and as the title of the James Bond movie points out: "The world is not enough". I was born in 1965, so that places me at the very beginning of Generation X. I was brought up by parents who lived through the Great Depression, and knew the value of the simple things in life. Recently, I've tried to make a conscious decision to simplify my own life, as I found myself rushing around, in a relentless pursuit of what I thought was "the good life". Perhaps it was health problems, financial setbacks, or maybe just a good old-fashioned epiphany, but I've come to realize that "the good life" doesn't have to break the bank or cause a heart attack or stroke.

8/27/2008 3:12:53 AM

I try very hard to not waste food in our home. With a busy schedule, it can be a challenge. Little things like fresh produce that rots and gets thrown out because you were too busy to cook it and went out to dinner instead. Half a bag of chips that went stale and were thrown out. Now that I grow my own vegetables, I feel food waste even more sharply. Every piece of lettuce that gets thrown out causes pangs because I labored to plant it and water it and watched it grow. Part of the problem is the extreme pace at which people live. They do not plan their meals so buy food and then throw it out like I mentioned. Also, if more people took time to grow their own, they would appreciate every little morsel so much more.

8/26/2008 8:05:50 AM

I live in the heart of corn and bean country. I can't tell you the number of times I've watched combines coming across the field so full they are leaving a trail of grain behind them. The farmer just HAD to make one more round before going to the grain truck to transfer. I've also seen news clips on TV about food festivals in Europe,(Spain or France maybe) where they have tomato fights at the end of the growing season. Tons of tomatoes are wasted. It's hard to feel sorry for the human race when things like this are going on, but then the people wasting the food are generally not the ones going hungry.

jessie fetterling_2
8/25/2008 1:57:34 PM

I think the problem with a lot of our environmental issues is lack of education. If our government spent more money on educating the public to know facts like this, I have faith that the human race would step up and start thinking more about what they're wasting. When I was in school, the most education we ever got about the environment was on Earth Day. Instead, we should be educating our future generations every day. Maybe we could add environmental science to every school's curriculum. But even that wouldn't help the population over 18, so we need to start thinking of ways to educate people in the workplace too.

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