Food waste is a crying shame
About one third of the planet’s food goes to waste, often because it doesn’t look perfect. According to The National Geographic, that’s enough to feed 2 billion people.
According to the same article (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/03/global-food-waste-statistics/), 6 billion pounds of US fruits and vegetables go either unharvested or unsold annually, often because the product isn’t flawless.
While families go hungry worldwide, tons of bananas get dumped for being too short, too long or too curved. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, enough food is squandered annually (about 2.9 trillion pounds per year) to feed the world’s 800 million hungry people twice over.
In developing nations, much of the waste is due to lack of storage, refrigeration or roads. But what is our excuse?
In developed countries, retailers might not accept imperfect looking produce. In other cases, it might get discarded due to overstocking. And, sadly, in almost every home it spoils in the fridge and gets tossed out without ever being served. Imagine the produce that you purchase at considerable cost manages to be marketed and then, at the point of consumption, gets forgotten or otherwise wasted. We are all guilty of this. Food waste, whether on factory farms, at the retailer, or in your own garbage, is the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world (behind only China and the US).
Consider the amount of water, fertilizer, fuel and pesticides wasted to produce food that nobody eats. And yet the cost of groceries continues to rise and many people wonder how they will afford to give their children the healthy foods their growing bodies need.
The next time you see fruit or vegetables labeled “imperfect” and offered at a reduced price at your preferred grocery store, buy them. Get over the superficial need for things to be perfect. Yes, you want quality food. But does that mean all the potatoes in the bag need to be uniform in size? Carrots must be perfectly straight? Maybe it’s time to start cutting the worm holes out of apples and accepting some blemishes on our food. Nature does not and should not produce impeccable, flawless food. What it does is provide a bounty large enough for everyone.
If we expect one third of what is grown to be thrown out because it doesn’t look good enough, we are doing something seriously wrong. The only way to change the beliefs of retailers is to create a demand for less expensive, imperfect food. The only people that can create that demand is us, the consumers, and the power is in our wallets.
Here at home
According to the CBC, Canada wastes $31 billion in food per year. The average Canadian household throws out between $1000-1500 in food per year.
Don’t you think you could find a better use for that $1500? We are working to buy the food, then throwing it out and, in many cases, working more to pay for it to be accepted at the dump. You may not think that tossing that head of lettuce or that bag of oranges is costing you much, but viewed over a year or a lifetime you have to look at the consequences of buying food grown thousands of miles away, transported to a local store, then purchased and tossed in the garbage.
Stop the cycle
- · Don’t buy 2 for 1 deals if you can’t possibly eat it before it rots. Better yet, buy it and donate or give away the excess
- · Freeze what you can’t eat. Rather than watch your bread mould on the countertop, freeze it and use it slice by slice. Learn to blanch vegetables and freeze them before they spoil (immerse in boiling water for 10 seconds then rapidly cool in ice water and freeze—not rocket science!)
- · Buying in bulk does not save you money if you often throw out unused portions. That 5 pack of Costco salad dressing is not cheaper when you throw two bottles away after their best-before date
- · Use your discretion. Best before dates are an educated guess at how fresh a product will remain. If something smells foul, don’t eat it. Use a menu-plan to keep track of what needs used up and follow through by cooking and eating what you have
- · Eat leftovers
- · Rotate the food in your pantry and freezer to be sure nothing gets overlooked and eventually wasted
- · Buy and demand “imperfect” fruit and vegetables at your local grocery store
Learn more about the food waste problem
If you didn’t catch the recent Marketplace on CBC, you can watch it online. There is a documentary called “Just Eat It” available to watch for free on knowledge.ca. Watch these with your kids and finish your vegetables!