“Even the most sustainably farmed food does us no good if the food is never eaten.”
141 trillion: the number of calories thrown into the dumpster every day.
1,249 calories per capita in the United States are discarded and 30- 40% of that food waste is at the consumer level. We are going to talk about world hunger, global waste, and what we might do in our own refrigerator to make a difference.
There Is Enough Food For The World
For every person on the planet, the current per capita food availability is 2,220 calories! Of course, we know they aren’t so evenly distributed.
Food waste has now far outpaced world hunger. In 1990, 1 out of every 4 people were hungry on a global level and in 2015, the number was reported as 1 out of 9. Most world hunger is located in war zones and nearly all of it is associated with poverty.
Unstable governments, war, no land access, and poverty contribute to global hunger. These are complex issues that combine to work against us and they require our attention. Many of the areas heaviest-hit by hunger do not have usable, arid land immediately accessible to them. Food has to be trucked in, or we could take the long-term approach and invest in the reversal of desertification.
FAO (the agricultural arm of the United Nations) shows that agricultural development of low-income nations is five times more effective than other hunger-reducing initiatives. In the end, creating sustainable agriculture around the world will be a major component to the solution.
Global Food Waste
This isn’t as easy as saying, “Eat what’s in your fridge” even though that is worth the saying.
There’s food waste in every section of the modern food cycle, starting with many farming practices around the world (yes, it is a global problem). After farm waste, there is transport waste, processing waste, grocery store waste, and eventually, your moldy grapes in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator (you forgot about those, huh?).
You can guess that North America leads the world in food waste but you might be surprised that Europe and industrialized Asia fall right behind us. And here’s the shock of what gets wasted—approximately 1/3 of all produced food (for human consumption):
- Fruits/Vegetables: 45%
- Fish/Seafood: 35%
- Cereals: 30%
- Dairy Products: 20%
- Meat: 20%
Shocked? Me too. That’s why this infograph from Pantry Paratus helped it all make sense.
7 Things to Prevent Food Waste at Home
With 80 billion pounds of food wasted out of American households, it’s time we admit our role to play. In fact, they say that the average family of four trashes $1,500 annually, many discard up to 25% of their food budget.
Let’s look at some things we can do at home to stretch our food budgets and our local food supply:
- Menu Plan. If you think through the quantities you make and when, you’ll buy the right amounts in the first place. (THIS is hands down the BEST meal planning app available today!)
- Eat Leftovers. A lot of things taste better the second day, anyway (more time for the flavors to mingle)! Leftover taco meat can be folded into morning omelets. Leftover roasts and pulled pork can be piled into sandwiches or turned into soups or become quesadilla filling. I keep a freezer bag full of leftover poultry scraps that get turned into soup when the gallon bag gets full. Remember, you can always vacuum-seal and/or freeze what you won’t eat immediately for a quick go-to healthy meal another day.
- Rotate Food. We’ve talked about food storage before, but these things only work if we know what we have in the back of the pantry, and move them forward accordingly. Believe it or not, this can even work in the refrigerator too! I’ve got a friend who stores her veggies in the fridge door and her condiments in the crisper drawers just so she sees them every time she opens her fridge and remembers what she has to work with.
- Store Food Properly. Storing vegetables in plastics shorten their life span, not properly wrapping cheese ruins it. Make sure that you take a few extra seconds to properly store your foods to eliminate waste.
- Use all edible parts. Make vegetable broth out of vegetable peelings you’d otherwise discard, or dehydrate and puree them into vegetable powders for future soups, stews, and casseroles.
- Learn to read labels. A “best by” date doesn’t mean you need to throw it away.
- Okay, so some things just didn’t get eaten. Feeding it to your chickens or throwing it into the compost means that you are now giving back to the soil, not created greenhouse gas emissions from the anaerobic decay that food waste causes in landfills.