The Digest of Food Waste
By Devonna Dang
An issue overlooked, mostly because it is so accessible to us, is food waste or food that goes uneaten and discarded. Around a third of the food produced is wasted, and with it, all the energy, time, resources (water, land) and money that went into growing, packaging and shipping it.
Food waste comes from a plethora of places. One of those places include farming. In order to hedge against disease and weather, some growers plant more crops than there’s demand for. Our high aesthetic standards for food contributes to food waste as well. Some produce goes unpicked because it doesn’t meet standards for shape and color. Culling produce is the sorting of fresh-harvested produce into marketable lots, with the non-marketable lots being discarded.
“After crops have been gathered from the fields, farmers tend to cull produce to make sure it meets minimum standards for size, color and weight,” according to The Washington Post.
Another contribution to food waste is the processing and distributing of food. Food can sit too long at improper temperatures and spoil.
Retail and grocery stores greatly contribute to food waste as well. Stores would rather overstock their shelves and throw out the remainder than look empty.
“There’s also the issue of ‘sell by’ expiration dates. The report cites one industry estimate that each store throws out, on average, $2,300 worth of food each day because the products have neared their expiration date. Yet most of this food is still edible,” said The Washington Post.
Restaurants and diners contribute and fostered a culture to over-serve their consumers.
“And, on average, diners leave about 17 percent of their food uneaten. The report notes that portion sizes are a big reason for this, as portions have ballooned in the past 30 years. Restaurants also try to keep more food than they need on hand to make sure that everything on the menu is available,” said The Washington Post.
Food waste often comes from our own home.
“American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. This can cost the average family between $1,365 to $2,275 annually. A big factor here, the NRDC report notes, is that food has become so cheap and readily available,” said The Washington Post.
In order to combat this first-world epidemic, there are various solutions.
Government plays a role in reducing food waste. One strategy with big impact is centralized composting, which is already starting to happen in cities such as New York. Centralized composting is the process of transforming organic waste into humus, a critical component of healthy, fertile soil.
However, centralized composting is not the only way the government can get involved.
“In France, for example, supermarkets are banned from throwing away food; they must compost or donate leftovers. Germany’s minister of agriculture recently announced the goal of cutting the country’s food waste in half by 2030,” said The Washington Post.
Some ways we can combat food waste is by storing herbs in waste in order to extend freshness, freezing individual meal servings, and trusting smell and taste more than “sell by” dates.