The Problem with Food Waste and How to Help

The U.S. produces $160 billion worth of food each year, and about fifty percent of it is thrown away annually by the farms themselves, grocery stores, or even consumers. Many people are trying to fix this problem or better themselves and their habits, but many still contribute to the ongoing issue of food waste. People need to decrease the amount of food wasted because it leaves a huge carbon footprint and it takes away from the food others need to thrive. 

Beginning at food production, farms create a massive carbon footprint and throw away food that is adequate to eat. The production of food in the United States takes up 15.7 percent of the total energy budget, as well as using 50 percent of all land. In addition, the production of food takes up 80 percent of all freshwater the United States uses yearly. One would assume that with this significant amount of resources being used that the food produced wouldn’t be wasted, however, 20 billion pounds of, mainly edible, produce is lost or thrown away on farms annually- while some food is even left unharvested. 

As for the food that gets to the stores, according to a recent study, supermarkets throw away 43 billion pounds of food every year. Most of this food is unexpired and edible. It is thrown away because massive shipments of food for grocery stores arrive before people have had the chance to buy the previous shipments. In addition, at home people follow expiration dates too strictly. Expiration dates are determined by the producers of the food, and expiration dates signify when the food is at the end of its peak of taste. Food is still edible after the expiration date, but companies want their food to taste its best so consumers buy it again. Also, people overestimate the amount of food they can eat. U.S. consumers waste nearly 150,000 tons of food per day. Many believe that since food can decompose, it is okay to throw away. On the contrary, as food rots, it releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas that has a far greater negative impact on the atmosphere than CO2.

30 to 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. Around 300 million people live in the US, and around 41 million are facing hunger. If we were able to use that 30 to 40 percent of food wasted, national hunger could potentially be ended. Many take for granted the food they have and don’t stop to think about the impact that wasting food has on the planet. 

People ignore the problems around them because they assume that others will fix them, and it is only “one meal wasted,” but millions of people are thinking the same things. By implementing small changes, tips, and tricks to waste less food, your carbon footprint could significantly be reduced. Food waste is an apparent and growing issue. It’s important to recognize how much food waste you produce, do your research, be more mindful, and help spread the word to others. Unfortunately, this issue cannot be fixed by a single person.

Ways to Help Save Food:

  1. Compost: Instead of throwing away the scraps of food you may have leftover, you can compost them. You can purchase a composter online and manually take your composted food to your local recycling and disposal facility or use the broken down scraps as dirt for your garden. 
  2. Buy Foods with Less Packaging: Try to avoid buying pre-cut fruits or packaged veggies. In addition, try to bring reusable grocery and produce bags instead of using single-use paper or plastic ones.
  3. Save Your Leftovers: Freeze soups or stews for later and bring your leftovers for lunch the next day. You can also freeze your fruit which can be used in smoothies, oatmeal, baking, and so much more!
  4. Find Multiple Uses for Foods: If a watermelon is mushy, make popsicles. Pickle your vegetables or make applesauce out of your old apples. Be creative with the ways you save food.
  5. Eat the Skins: Many people peel their apples, peaches, cucumbers, and kiwis. But did you know that those are all edible? You can also eat the stems of strawberries and save carrot tops for broths or juices.
  6. Don’t take expiration dates too strictly: This is not saying to force yourself to eat your moldy bread or turned-blue yogurt. However, if it is a little after the expiration date and it looks, smells, and tastes fine or if it is not even opened but a few days after the expiration date, check before you chuck it.
  7. There are many creative ways to avoid wasting food. Implementing some of these strategies into your life can reduce your carbon footprint and help combat this issue of food waste.

Sources:

“Food Waste Is a Massive Problem-Here’s Why.” FoodPrint, 15 Apr. 2020, https://foodprint.org/issues/the-problem-of-food-waste/ .

“Food Waste Set to Increase to 2.1 Billion Tons Annually by 2030 – Yale E360.” Yale E360, https://e360.yale.edu/digest/food-waste-set-to-increase-to-2-1-billion-tons-annually-by-2030#:~:text=Food%20Waste%20Set%20to%20Increase%20to%202.1%20Billion%20Tons%20Annually%20by%202030,-Discarded%20food%20at&text=Each%20year%2C%201.6%20billion%20tons,third%20of%20all%20food%20produced . Accessed 12 Sept. 2020.

Kubala, Jillian. “20 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 20 Nov. 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/reduce-food-waste.

“Reducing Wasted Food At Home | Reduce, Reuse, Recycle | US EPA.” US EPA, 18 Apr. 2013, https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home .

Why Do We Waste Perfectly Good Food In The U.S.? | AJ+. YouTube, 28 Aug. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkbOpCRyKvQ .

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