Food Waste is an economic, humanitarian and environmental crisis. Whether it is your salad, a burger or your morning sandwich, your meal has an impact on the environment and on the welfare of animals, food/farm workers and on public health. Your “foodprint” is the result of everything it takes to get your food from the farm to your plate. Many of those processes are invisible to consumers.
One-third of the food produced today is wasted. At the same time, around 800m people go to bed hungry every night. The FAO estimates food waste represents an economic loss of US$700bn globally each year. And around three billion cannot afford a healthy diet. Hunger has been on the rise for the past five years, and the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the food and nutrition security of up to an additional 132 million of people. On top of that, we are faced with an ecosystem decline and the consequences of climate change.
Yet, food continues to be lost and wasted. This year we have witnessed an increase in food loss and waste as a result of movement and transport restrictions due to the pandemic.
Most people don't realize how much food they throw away every day , from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. EPA estimates that in 2018, about 68 percent of the wasted food we generated—or about 42.8 million tons-- ended up in landfills or combustion facilities.
If food waste was a country, it would be the world's third largest emitter, behind only China and the US. Avoiding food waste can reduce our overall carbon footprint by up to 8%. Indeed, NGO Project Drawdown suggests that reducing food waste is 15.7 times more important to cutting our carbon footprint than recycling.
By managing food sustainably and reducing waste, we can help businesses and consumers save money, provide a bridge in our communities for those who do not have enough to eat, and conserve resources for future generations.
Prep. Serve. Consume. Restaurant operations seem simple enough. After all, it’s just food, right? But where does it go when you don’t like it? What happens to the wrong orders? Half-eaten plates? Aging ingredients? It’s simple, and you already know the answer. It goes in the trash. This protocol is upheld in the interest of consumer health. And yet, somehow this etiquette has led to a massive oversight in consumption and waste patterns.
At present, the United States is wasting 40% of its food each year. Not only is that an enormous ethical dilemma, it is also extremely expensive. The resources that are poured into food production and transportation are being lost on wasteful habits. If all the work of growing, harvesting, labor, and transportation is lost to waste, then so too are the resources that enable the production in the first place.
The Natural Resources Defense Council reported in 2012 that restaurants and food service providers generate two to four times the waste of grocery stores, retail supercenters, and wholesale distributors combined. The report said U.S. restaurants are estimated to create 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste each year.
Below is the recent outrage that sparked online regarding the Dunkin' Doughnuts food waste practices.
Although food waste diversion rates vary between companies, a 2013 survey of restaurants respondents conducted by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance revealed that only 1.4% of food waste is donated and 84.3% is discarded. For larger companies with more than 10 locations, transportation constraints and insufficient storage and refrigeration on site were the top two barriers to decreasing food waste, followed by liability concerns.
Ways to Reduce Food Wastage
The need for everyone to come together and step up efforts to reduce food loss and waste, including through innovation, technologies and education is crucial.
Therefore, solutions to stem food loss and waste such as: good data to know where in the value chain the major hot spots of food loss and waste are; applying innovation - for example, e-commerce platforms for marketing or retractable mobile food processing systems; government incentives to bolster private sector food loss and waste action are just some of the ways to help manage the Food waste crisis.
As individuals we can start by planning, prepping, and storing food in our household to waste less food. By simply making a list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and time and eat healthier food. If you buy no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all.
It is easy to overbuy or forget about fresh fruits and vegetables. Store fruits and vegetables for maximum freshness; they’ll taste better and last longer, helping you to eat more of them.
Also, be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to use up. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish.