Waste Not, Want Not

Jun 8, 2017 | Sustainable Agriculture |

The Dirt:

Food loss and waste is a problem that hasn’t gone away. Despite aggressive efforts across the entire food supply chain— from the farm to food production and even your dinner plate— much more work needs to be done in order to deal with this important global problem. A significant portion of food waste occurs in our own kitchens! So, how can YOU help with this critical issue?



Tweet @dirt_to_dinner with your best food waste ideas. Use the hashtag #D2DFightsFoodWaste

Or visit our Facebook Page and write on our wall!

Imagine this…You own your own vegetable garden, about the size of a football field, where you grow fruits and veggies for your family. Now, once you’ve harvested the entire football field, take everything that was produced from the goal post to the 35-yard line and…throw it all away!
Yep, put that beautiful bounty straight in the trash. That is the magnitude of food waste that occurs in the United States. According to the USDA, food waste in the U.S. is estimated at between 30-40%. While this garden might seem relatively small, it is a microcosm of both big and small agriculture!
Food loss and waste has certainly become a hot topic around the world. It is true that significant progress in raising public awareness has been made and some helpful improvements across the food chain have decreased overall food loss. But, the problem still remains: how can we reduce the amount of food going to waste while the world grows larger and hungrier every day?
As encouraging as the rising awareness may seem, those at the front lines of the battle against waste (and hunger) agree that there is more to do— so very much more to do…
We see the subject more and more, on television, in newspapers and magazines, and in the places we shop for and consume food.  It’s a subject of growing importance to everyone along the supply chain: food producers, handlers, transporters, processors, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and restaurants, food banks and food pantries, and, especially, a growing number of concerned consumers.

Where is the greatest opportunity for improvement?  Where can we have the most immediate positive impact in addressing food loss and waste?

Most observers point to simple human behavior.

Changes to the processes and mechanical aspects of our “food system” offer great opportunities to reduce loss and waste. (D2D will explore some of the innovative steps underway in food production, manufacturing and marketing in a future post as well.)
In our previous post, “Such A Waste,” D2D discussed the annual loss and waste along the entire food supply chain. Much of the public attention to food loss and waste sensibly focuses on the way food is packaged, sold, or otherwise used.
Through such things as better packaging and portion control, better and more consistent product information and labeling, more efficient collection and distribution of surplus or unused food at retail locations and in restaurants, progress has been made in how we move food from field to dinner plate.
Statistics show that the greatest portion of food loss and waste in the United States and other developed economies can be traced to what we as consumers do every day.
The decisions you make about the food you purchase and prepare for your family, how you store it in your kitchen, and how you deal with the leftovers from food preparation and meals can make a significant impact on the amount of overall food waste.
And let’s go back to the imaginary vegetable garden the size of a football field for a second. Don’t forget about the resources that are inevitably wasted when food is wasted. Think of the money spent on pesticides, fertilizer, and herbicide to keep those crops alive in the field— might as well be flushed down the drain!
We can help illustrate this point by showing you how much water is wasted when you throw away produce that may have gotten lost in the back of the refrigerator. When you throw away an orange, you are throwing away a portion of the 13.8 gallons of water it took to grow that orange.
Yes, it is true that some of that the majority of that water is eventually returned to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration, however it is important to acknowledge the amount of resources that go into something as simple as one orange— and how quickly those resources can be wasted! And if we think about this waste on a global scale, the amount of wasted resources gets even bigger. Of the food that is grown all over the world approximately 35% of that is thrown away.
Here is where YOU can come into the picture. Back to the football field— take all the food from the goal post to the 12-yard line – that is about how much food is wasted at home. In fact, just about every household wastes almost $1,000 in food each year – and that is after taxes!

Your efforts are the most important in the chain of waste. Analysis by the FAO says that 40% of the total amount of food wasted occurs in the home and restaurants. Here is where YOU can help make a difference.

Reducing food loss and waste begins in the decisions we make about the kinds and amounts of food we purchase to prepare at home.  Many of the suggestions made to address food loss and waste are rooted in nothing more complicated than a commitment to better decision-making.
It is important to keep in mind, when you throw away food, you re also throwing away the water (and often other resources) that it takes to produce that food. As we try to be more mindful of saving water, we must also consider the water wasted by throwing out your uneaten orange!


How do YOU fight food waste?


Help us expand this list of practical suggestions for reducing food loss and waste.  Send us your best thinking on steps we can take as individuals – in how we plan our meals, prepare food, re-use and repurpose food, and how we can help galvanize others to support this important work.

Tweet @dirt_to_dinner with your best food waste ideas. 

Use the hashtag #D2DFightsFoodWaste Or visit our Facebook Page and write on our wall!

The Bottom Line:

Food waste today is a waste of resources for future generations. Not to mention, much of the waste can be repurposed to help feed those who are in need. Changing our behavior is not easy – and changing how we shop, cook, and store our food is going to be a challenge, but we can do it. Send us your best ideas for preventing food waste in your home.