With the world population ever growing we need to produce more food to nourish more and more hungry people. But sadly much of the food currently being produced is just being wasted. According to the USDA an estimated 31 percent of our food is wasted in the U.S. at the retail and consumer level alone - that's a shocking amount of food being produced but never being eaten! Food waste occurs at almost every level, from production to purchase, and can present itself in many different ways - everything from produce culls in the field for veggies that are the wrong size or shape, to transportation losses, to dented cans or unsold fresh produce in the grocery stores.
Of course along with the wasted food there are many resources wasted to grow food that will never ultimately be consumed, including water/fertilizer to grow the food, manpower to harvest, fossil fuels to transport, etc. According to USDA, food waste is the single largest component going into municipal landfills, and not only are our landfills being filled to capacity but they're also creating a shocking amount of greenhouse-building gasses.
Some groups such as grocery stores or farmers markets may be apprehensive about donating unsold edible food for fear they could be sued. But the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act protects those acting in good faith who donate food. As long as the donor has not acted negligently they are protected and are not held liable in the event of unforeseen illness associated with their donation. So don't throw away that unsold produce or the cans of soup that didn't sell as well as you hoped they would - DONATE THEM! You can read more about the Good Samaritan Act here.
In 2013 the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency launched a program called U.S. Food Waste Challenge calling for a 50% reduction in food waste by the year 2030. As stated on the USDA Website: "As part of the effort, the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste" Now there's a worthwhile program to get on board with! You can find out more here —> USDA Food Waste Challenge.
Yes, there are even consumer losses once food is purchased and brought home. How many times have you had to throw away that last banana or the rest of that salad mix because it began to over ripen before your family could eat it? No one anticipates going to the grocery store to buy nutritious food for their family just to have it go to waste. But think of the money wasted to purchase food just to allow it to spoil and then be tossed in the garbage. But have heart, there's plenty each of us can do to help reduce food waste in our own homes:
Eat What You Buy - That huge bag of potatoes may be on sale, but can all those potatoes really be eaten before they go bad? To reduce food waste buy only what your family can reasonably eat while it's still fresh. Remember, it's not a bargain if you're just throwing it away.
Use Your Leftovers - Don't let that delicious roast or the rest of those green beans sit in the fridge until they become the beginnings of the next science-fair experiment. Store your leftovers in glass jars so you can plainly see the food in the fridge needing to be eaten. That way you can either enjoy those leftovers for lunch the next day or plan tomorrow's meal to incorporate those leftover items into a brand new meal and reduce waste at the same time. Make shredded BBQ pork with that leftover pork roast & serve it on buns for a whole new twist on last night's pork roast supper.
What If It Goes Bad? - OK, it happens. You buy fresh produce and then it ripens quicker than you thought it would, or the toddler only ate 1/2 of what you served her. Don't throw away that 1/2 banana or those molded strawberries, toss them in the compost pile where nature can go to work creating that coveted black gold that helps your garden plants grow so well.
Bring It Home - If you enjoy a restaurant meal but are unable to finish the food served to you, bring that food home to enjoy for lunch tomorrow. You don't even have to accept that bulky Styrofoam take-out container they push on you. I often bring in my own lidded glass dish for my restaurant leftovers. After I've eaten my fill I simply transfer the uneaten portion of my meal into my dish and snap the cover on. Since my dish is made of microwavable glass I can warm my leftovers the next day and eat them from the same dish. No Styrofoam to the landfill, no extra serving dishes to wash. Win/Win!
So you see, there are many quick and easy ways to reduce food waste in our own homes. What are some of YOUR favorite ideas for reducing food waste?
This article was written by Tammy Taylor, owner of the Taylor-Made Homestead blog. Tammy lives & works on a NE Texas ranch and writes about home cooking, gardening, food preservation, MIY, DIY and living as gently as possible on this big blue planet we call home. You can visit her Homestead blog or follow her on Facebook or Pinterest.
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