America is often referred to as the “land of excess.” Unfortunately, this rings true as we face a very real food waste problem. According to an organization fighting food insecurity, Feeding America, “Each year, 119 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away each year. Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted.” This is a staggering amount, and it is clear that something needs to be done to minimize food waste.
Most of us have been there. We make a meal plan paired with a thought out grocery list. Good intentions in tow, as we fill our cart (or pay someone to do it for us). We shell out our hard-earned dollars with a solid plan in place for a 7-day cooking schedule, complete with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fast-forward 1-2 weeks later, we open the refrigerator door to do a pre-garbage day purge only to find that some of our “meal plans” have perished and with extreme guilt we toss our good intentions into the trash.
However, we are not the only ones contributing to the problem. When you step into the produce aisle at the grocery store you find mostly picture perfect produce. Most American shoppers are judging produce products by their cover. If it looks good, they assume it tastes good. Distributors who supply grocery stores have already discarded fruits and vegetables for weird shapes, discoloration, or just being kinda ugly. On top of this, they also trash any foods that have been overproduced or almost-expired.
When we waste food, we're also wasting all the resources that went into producing it - the water, land and energy. It's not just a waste of food, it's a waste of our planet's resources. It also contributes to higher food prices for consumers, as well as increased taxes to pay for the disposal of wasted food.
And while we are wasting billions of pounds of food each year, BILLIONS, the harsh reality is that there are still millions of Americans struggling with hunger. It's heartbreaking to know that there is food available to solve the food insecurity issue in this country and the problem isn’t solved. One in eight Americans struggles with hunger. By minimizing food waste, lowering the cost, and redistributing goods, we can help to ensure that everyone has access to the nutritious food they need.
So what can we do about it? We can be smarter shoppers and buy from companies who are part of the solution, not the problem. Be mindful when at the grocery store and only buy what you need. This doesn’t have to be a weekly affair. You can purchase in shorter-term increments, as the Europeans do, so as to not overfill their tiny refrigerators. Use a marker or a label maker on your food storage bags and containers to capture the “eat by” date and encourage others in the home to help clear out the leftovers before ordering UberEats. If you do end up with excess food, consider offering it to neighbors, friends or co-workers. In certain circumstances you might be able to donate it to a local food bank or charitable organization, but be sure to check their guidelines first. This not only helps to reduce waste but also ensures that nutritious food is available to those who need it most. There are some companies & brands who are doing the heavy lifting for us. Our favorites are listed below:
Misfits Market - Buys food from farms and other suppliers that aren’t up to grocery stores and other outlets’ standards to provide affordable access to healthy food and to fight the food waste crisis.
Diana’s Bananas: By flash-freezing its bananas for a frozen banana experience, Diana’s is able to extend shelf life. They also give the peels back to the earth to enrich the soil and feed animals.
Wellfare: Aligns with the best food companies in the country to streamline donations of nutritious food into low-income communities.
Imperfect Foods: They rescue and sell "imperfect" fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste due to cosmetic reasons.
Too Good To Go: They offer an app that enables users to purchase surplus food from local restaurants, cafes, and stores at a reduced price.
Rubies in the Rubble: They create delicious chutneys and jams using surplus fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded.
Full Harvest: They offer an online marketplace connecting food and beverage companies to farms with surplus produce that might not meet typical grocery store standards.
Food Cowboy: They connect shippers with charities to ensure food is delivered to people who need it instead of being wasted.
Replate: They provide a food recovery platform that enables food businesses to schedule pickups for excess food, which is then redistributed to local non-profits.
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine: They partner with volunteers to recover excess food from restaurants, cafeterias, and other food businesses and redistribute it to those in need.
Hungry Harvest: They offer a subscription produce delivery service that rescues "ugly" and surplus produce and delivers it to customers at a discounted price.
Food Recovery Network: They empower student-led food recovery and hunger awareness programs in colleges and universities across the US.
Spoiler Alert: They provide a software platform that helps food businesses track and manage surplus inventory, connect with food recovery organizations, and access analytics to better understand their waste patterns.
Goodr: They provide a food waste management and logistics platform for businesses, connecting them with local non-profits and hunger relief organizations to redistribute excess food.
Minimizing food waste is a critical issue that requires action from everyone. By reducing waste, we can do what we can to protect the environment, support the economy, and help to alleviate hunger and food insecurity. Consider buying the funny looking vegetables. It may be a conversation starter at the table. Have a hyper-organized fridge with the labels of the expiration date. Buy from companies who are already fighting these issues. Remember every little bit helps.