Food Waste in America: Important Solutions
Guest post provided by Tracy Williams, BS aka “Tracy’s Plate”.
Food waste is a serious problem for the future of America, especially because of environmental concerns. Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in landfills of the United States. There has been a 50% jump in food waste in the United States since the 1970s. The average American family of four ends up throwing away the equivalent of $2,275.00 annually in food waste. If there would be a 15% reduction in losses in the United States food supply, this reduction would save enough food to feed 25 million Americans annually.
How do food waste and the hunger epidemic correlate?: The hunger epidemic and food waste epidemic can be highly correlated. If we, as Americans were able to figure out how to waste less food, then there would be resources to provide for those who are hungry. Since the 1960s, when the USDA started to count poverty, they have seen the biggest improvement in economic security among the elderly. Their poverty went from 22% in 1960 to less than 10% in 2006. Their decline in poverty was due to the creation of Social Security, subsidized health care and the fact that the government made sure that Social Security payments reflect improvements in the standard of living in our country. For instance, the cost of housing is higher in urban versus rural areas. At the core, hunger is the result of employment instability and the lack of an adequate minimum wage. When a family is living that close to the edge, the bottom line is that cuts will be made in the grocery bill. If restaurants would donate more unused, uncooked foods to food pantries, food pantry clients would have access to great quality food without having to pay full price.
How can you solve food waste for your household?: Most people go grocery shopping once a week and most of them wonder why fresh foods do not last long. This can be prevented by going to the markets more often. When you keep in mind the ways you like to consume your fruits, vegetables and fresh foods as soon as you bought it home from the store or supermarket. This will make it less likely that you will let the food spoil. Keeping your refrigerator neat and organized will be good to keep the food visible. This is important because fruits and vegetable will spoil. It is important to know that not everything has to be stored in the refrigerator. Some foods spoil faster when they are washed because the washing will remove the outer layer, causing faster ripening and wetness of washed goods can encourage bacterial growth. Wash fresh products only before you are going to eat it. It may be beneficial to buy locally because it reduces shipping and storage time. Another bonus is to lessen the carbon footprint. It is important to watch expiration dates of fresh foods when shopping. You can balance it by estimating how long the item will take to use up before the product hits the expiration date. Bread will spoil much faster if it was frozen or refrigerated first. It is better to store bread on your kitchen counter in a tightly sealed container or bag. Cereal, dry foods and dry pasta can put into air tight containers after opening the original packaging. It is acceptable to keep leftover meat and poultry in the original packaging, if you are going to use meat and poultry within two days. Meats like bacon can be stored frozen for up to a month.
Food Waste Prevention Action Plan: When you are shopping at the grocery store, plan your meals in advance, use grocery lists and avoid impulse buys. Buy items only when you have a plan for using them, and wait until perishables are all used up before buying more. If a recipe calls for two carrots, do not buy a whole bag. Buy loose produce so you can purchase the exact number you will use. Try buying grains, nuts and spices from the bulk bins so you can measure out exactly what you need and limit risking over purchase. If you rarely cook, you should not stock up on goods that have to be cooked in order to be consumed. Many fruits and vegetables are thrown away because of their size, shape, or colors do not quite match what we think these items should look like. Most of these items are perfectly good to eat, and buying them at a farmer’s market or the grocery store helps use up food that might otherwise be tossed. When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the refrigerator, freezer or pantry and put new products in the back. Designate a week in which you write down everything you throw out on a regular basis. When cooking, use every piece of whatever food you are cooking with, whenever possible. For example, leave the skin on cucumbers and potatoes, sauté broccoli stems with florets and so on. It is important to use vegetable and meat scraps in homemade stocks, and use citrus fruit rinds and zest to add flavor to other meals. Produce does not have to be tossed just because it has reached the end of its peak. Soft fruit can be used in smoothies; wilting vegetables can be used in soups. Both wilting fruits and veggies can be turned into delicious and nutritious juice.
Food waste is a serious problem for the future of America, as well as environmental concerns. What connection do wasted food and the hunger epidemic have related to societal standards? If restaurants donated more unused foods to food pantries, less food would be wasted by the local restaurants. There are many decisions to be made to create an action plan to limit food waste in your household among your family.
Tracy Williams has her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University. Tracy Williams enjoys writing and public speaking on nutrition topics. She is a five time recipient of nutrition education grants from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. She loves being an advocate for the diversity of our world, especially for people with disabilities. She has had cerebral palsy since birth. People interested in previous articles written by Tracy can visit her website at www.tracysplate.com.