The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which keeps tabs on what’s grown and eaten around the globe, estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted along the chain that stretches from farms to processing plants, marketplaces, retailers, food-service operations, and our collective kitchens. Industrialized nations waste 1.5 trillion pounds of food a year, an amount almost equal to the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. However, in the United States, the waste is undeniable: More than 30 percent of our food, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Pile all that food on a football field and the layers would form a putrefying casserole miles high.
What’s Behind the Waste?
Millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night, and yet millions of tons of food end up in trash cans or spoiled on the way to market. This is something that we all must think about when fighting the food waste epidemic. Lack of infastructure in developing nations causes much of their food to go bad before it even hits the markets. Take India for example, it loses an estimated 35 to 40 percent of its fruits and vegetables. In developed nations, hyperefficient farming practices, plenty of refrigeration, and top-notch transportation, storage, and communications ensure that most of the food we grow makes it to the retail level. So why does perfectly good food still go wasted?
Though they do their best to hide it from public view, American food retailers typically experience in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. Store managers routinely overorder, for fear of running out of a particular product, losing customers, and consequently, their jobs. Entire shelves of perfectly edible shell peas are transferred into Dumpsters to make room for incoming ones; pallets of zucchini are rejected because they curve too much. Perfectly edible food is thrown away because it looks “ugly”. These “ugly” fruits and vegetables are typically destined for the trash, not the dinner plate. Imagine if all that perfectly good food was given to the hungry instead of our dumpsters.
The consumers are at fault as well. We overbuy because relatively cheap and seductively packaged food is available at nearly every turn. We store food improperly; we take “use by” dates literally, though such stamps were designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety. We forget to eat our leftovers, we leave our doggy bags in restaurants, and we suffer little or no consequence for scraping edible food into a bin. We must learn to “eat with our stomachs and not with our eyes”.
Fixing this problem
This information is significant because issues such as food waste and world hunger will never be resolved if not confronted. This is a serious problem that our whole world faces and affectd everyone of us. If there’s anything good about the shocking scale of global food waste, it’s the huge number of opportunities it presents for improvement. We can help as individuals to stop this food epidemic in our world! Some ways in helping are: advocating to stop world hunger, call for markets to discount goods close to expiration, supporting organizations like Feeding America, push for restaurants to start measuring what they toss and offer smaller portion sizes, help raise awareness of food production in developing nations, etc.
Royte, Elizabeth. N.p., 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.
“Humorous Ugly Fruit Campaign Reduces Food Waste in France – The Good News Network.” The Good News Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.