“About one-third of the world’s edible food is lost or wasted annually according to the food and agriculture organization. Food waste is caused by many things, markets, farmers, overproduction, consumers, grocery stores, date labels, and many more. With so many contributors to the growing “63 billion tons of waste…of which 10.1 million never get[s] harvested… and 52.4 million tons end up in landfills uneaten”(Leib et al 1). With such staggering numbers, how can we individually as consumers, citizens, and lawmakers fight this growing global problem? With such a hard problem to tackle in the world, it is only through numerous small acts to make an actual difference. Through simple household and food industry efforts, we can contribute to this mass problem that is shaking our world.
We don’t realize how much waste we are throwing out in our households because it gets taken away weekly. C A Tucker and T Farrelly found in New Zealand that “around 44,000 tonnes of waste is dumped per year (at a cost of $106 per tonne)”(684). That’s just for one country, but it is much bigger globally. Why do we as consumers waste so much? David Evans argues in “Consumer Food Waste Behaviour in Universities: Sharing as a Means of Prevention.’ article that it has become habitual and even cultural for societies to do so (qtd in Lazell 430). Day routines include food waste, causing whole societies to ignore its consequence. Because societies live in a distractive technological world, we as citizens become immune to the environment. Causing food waste to increase because it is viewed as unimportant (Lazell 430).
Through small means, individuals in their households can save food and money by accurately storing them. Tristram Stuart, a food waste activator, and the author gave an example of this, in an experiment that he held with lettuce during his TEDD Talk. By placing one head of lettuce in the fridge, another on the counter, and the last in a vase with water, he observed their health over ten consecutive days. Finding that only the vase-held lettuce was in full health, and remaining too in the next two weeks, he concluded that he had found a better way to store lettuce. Evidence of his conclusion can be found in figure one below (Stuart).
If we encourage consumers to shop, store, and cook smarter, much of the food waste from households will disappear. Justin Warner, a famous television chef, informs of his experience with food waste in his position in his interview with Jared Kauffman. Giving examples such as vacuum sealers, spinach loosely packed, and buying only what is needed. Not only do consumers not know how to store food, but most are unaware of the value of food labels on our food. Chris Hunt has found that most food freshness labels for companies don’t show the actual freshness of the product. In the article Food Date Labels, they define each label.:
• ‘production’ or ‘pack’ date– the date on which the food was manufactured or placed in final packaging• ’sell by’ date– used by retailers for stock control.• ’best if used by’ date – generally indicates when the food will no longer be at its highest quality.• ’use by’ date– typically used by manufacturers to mean the same thing as “best if used by.”• ’freeze by’ date– recommended date for freezing.• ’enjoy by’ date – this label is used by some manufacturers, but isn’t clearly defined. Or useful for consumers.
Too much food is being wasted because of confusion with the labeling system and food safety laws. The eat-by date just indicates that the food will no longer be at its “highest quality,” and too many are confused and throw the product away. The Majority of the food that gets tossed out is from a misunderstanding of what the food date label means (Leib et al).
Safety regulations and picky restaurant industries contribute to the vast number of food waste. In the article “Waste want not,” Elizabeth Royte states, ”Upscale grocers have started running their produce departments like beauty pageants” with the irregularly shaped produce being thrown out (39). Not only is this perfectly edible and safe food thrown out but with strict safety regulations, many farmers are scared to donate their surplus.’ For example, a farmer investing 16,000 pounds of his spinach is all gone because a little bit of grass was growing among it (Stuart). In situations like these, it makes sense why farmer and corporations would withhold their food. As Leib et al. has found, “regulations can serve as barriers to food donations because donors and recipients find it challenging to discern which regulations apply to donated food (32).”
However, there are many ways corporations can donate, and do so in simple ways. For example, I know that Kneaders with their leftover bread that they don’t use, get taken to a local animal shelter. And at my Job City Cakes, we donate our food to “Foods not Bombs”.
Chef Justin explains on the reality Television Show, “Guy’s Grocery Games,“ that every couple of shows, the extra meat, produce, or other product that doesn’t get used goes to a local shelter or goes to compost (Kauffman). Other ways that have been used to save in France is that they have volunteers clean 1,100 pounds of produce that was too small regulations to harvest. From this effort, they were able to use their ingredients to help feed 61,000 diners (Royte 41).
As the phrase says, light hands make light work, it is true for food waste. Food waste is too big of a problem to be overlooked in households and in food industries. It is only through working in unity and doing small kind acts for humanity that we as a world are able to reduce our problems. As Chef Justin says, “Half of waste and spoilage is simply about respect…of time… ingredients and the people who brought them to you… But look at our country. Obviously, respect is an issue.