We’ve all heard the stat…40% of food in the US is wasted. Thrown away. Trashed. We posted here last month many of the ways food is wasted in grocery stores and food service but, consider this statistic; of that 40%, 61% occurs in the home. For a family of 4 that amounts to $114-$119 per month in out of pocket costs. Our shopping habits, storage methods, over-buying, portion size, and unwitting lack of knowledge about spoilage and what happens when we throw away our leftovers are generating ripple effects of waste through precious resources, driving up the costs of everything from food to water to gas. An average of 23 pounds of food per month, per person, is thrown away – a 50% increase from 1970. A recent study by the National Institute of Health found that a quarter of the food squandered would provide 3 meals per day for 43 million people.
Food budgets are one of the smallest pieces of our spending pie so there is little incentive to shop with greater thought toward food waste versus the cost. However, the impact of reducing our food waste at home is significant enough to make it worth the effort. Consider not only the costs, but also the environmental effects. Landfills are largely filled with food waste, which converts to methane gas that is 25% more powerful than carbon dioxide, making it far more powerful at depleting the ozone layer. Every ton of food wasted results in 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. A UK report estimates if food scraps were removed from landfills it would be the equivalent of removing 1/5 of cars and their emission from the roads. In processing New York City’s waste alone, garbage trucks make 250,000 trips throughout the city and the same number of long haul trips out of state to landfills. The average truck, with its frequent stops and idling, gets around 3 MPG.
Growing, packaging and transporting enough food to feed us and satisfy our need for abundance reduces resources like land, fertilizer, water, gas, paper and plastic. Think take-out, to-go, leftovers, displays, the need for perfection in shape, color and size, and you get an idea of the impact waste has on our food sources.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple ways to have a dramatic impact on food waste right in your own home. Here are some thoughtful ideas to create a less wasteful food environment:
As an experiment, keep a log for a week of food that is thrown away in the household. Then apply all or some of the tips above and log that week’s food waste. There should be a reduction in food waste without much effort. Imagine how this new awareness will flourish and contribute to solving what is a national crisis.
Table to Table is working daily with food purveyors and families to redistribute food that would otherwise be wasted to help feed our hungry neighbors. But every little bit that can be done on an individual basis helps in the battle to diminish food waste. Learn more about how we rescue food at http://tabletotable.org/.
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