USA Has 96 Billion lbs of Food Waste Annually: Why Are So Many People Starving?
Mom was right, “Clean your plate. There are starving children in Africa”.
In fact, there are starving children all over this world. Let's look at the numbers according to EPA and USDA estimates:
- 96,000,000,000: The pounds of food wasted by Americans every year.
- 1,000,000,000: The cost paid in dollars to dispose of US food waste every year.
- 15,000,000: The number of children who die every year from hunger.
- 14: Approximately how many LBS of that wasted food could have went to every single single person on the planet instead of in the trash. (That's equivalent to a nearly a month's worth of food for every person on the planet given a 2,000 calorie per day diet.)
The financial implications are enormous. But what’s not so obvious is the impact it has on the environment. Wasted food in national landfills contributes to global warming through it’s decomposing process - not to mention the natural resources used to produce the food that is wasted. When food is wasted, the energy and resources invested by the supply chain to deliver food to our pantry and plates is lost.
Where the Waste Happens
I could go on and on with statistics and facts. What remains alarming to me is how apathetic most Americans are towards this issue. I once witnessed a chef take 3 cases of tomatoes and throw them in the dumpster because they were not the right color. Visit a school cafeteria any day of the week and check out the piles of food thrown away every day. Perhaps the largest contributor to food waste are farmers themselves. They are ruled by what sells and will throw away thousands of pounds of perfectly edible produce because they are either the wrong size, shape or color to be marketable to retailers.
Wabi-Sabi - The Beauty of Imperfection
I think we should start making it cool to eat less than perfect food items. Just like the funky looking heirloom tomatoes that never made it to the grocery shelves until recently because of their odd shapes and colors. Now heirlooms are cool and can be found in most food markets. My garden hardly ever produces symmetrical or even sized vegetables. But that’s what I love about it. I once had a carrot that looked like Bob Dylan, a one in a million carrot that we all enjoyed for dinner that night while listening to “Like a Rolling Stone”.
Lately I’ve been hearing about these underground supper clubs that are emerging all over the country. Chefs are creating these fantastic exclusive meals using the unmarketable produce and meats from local farms that would most likely have ended up in dumpsters. They are invite only events making it very exclusive and locations are not divulged until 24 hours before. Folks are begging to get on the list and partake in this trendy unique way of making the public aware of our food waste.
Five Ways to Cut Your Food Waste
You may not have underground super clubs in your community however there are some some things you can do to reduce the food waste at home:
- Learn to follow the FIFO rule. (first in first out) This rule is used in restaurants to ensure food is used before it’s expiration and little food goes to waste.
- Use everything. Don’t throw put those bits of left over cheese or vegetables. Make a quiche or soup.
- Use your freezer. If you over buy just make your recipes larger and freeze the other half.
- Write a list. Check to make sure you don’t already have the items on your shopping list and buy only what you can eat.
- Use leftovers. Instead of scraping leftovers why not use them for tomorrow’s ingredients. For example leftover cooked vegetables can be tossed with pasta to make a perfect pasta primavera.