I’m on my soapbox here.

I’ve read a number of articles recently that discuss food production, consumption and waste. It doesn’t seem to be high on the radar of many people. Water and energy use are major issues but few consider the amounts of both needed to produce food and how they are also wasted.

  • One third of the planet’s food is wasted, enough to feed two billion people.
  • In the United States, six billion pounds of fruit and vegetables are wasted every year. They are either not harvested or unsold because they don’t look perfect.
  • Globally 46% of fruits and vegetables never make it from farm to fork.
  • In California’s Salinas Valley thousands of tons of fresh greens are trashed because they don’t have sufficient shelf life to ship.
  • The United States wastes thirty to forty percent of the food produced while one in seven people has food insecurity.*

In small pockets of the world a few people are trying to actively use food that would be wasted. I’ve read about chefs who are raising awareness by creating dishes using vegetables that are misshapen or blemished. Others are donating extra food to community kitchens where food is prepared for the homeless. At a resort in Las Vegas edible food scraps are sent to a pig farm where they’re fed to the animals.

  • In North America and Europe research has indicated that 620 to 660 pounds of food per person is wasted every year. A third of that is wasted by consumers. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa and Asia the waste is less that half of that. Most of the waste there do to a lack of technology. Inadequate refrigeration or ability to process food efficiently.

Supermarkets throw away huge amounts of food that has passed the “sell-by” date. Restaurants have to discard tons of partially eaten meals. In Britain, the Sustainable Restaurant Association surveyed London restaurants and found that about a pound of food per customer per meal was wasted. Two-thirds in preparation and another third by the customer.

Not too long ago I was astonished watching a friend going through the refrigerator and throwing out anything that was out of date. Sour cream, three days past the date, unopened; cream cheese, unopened; a barely used half-gallon of milk, all tossed in the bin. Those dates don’t indicate that food is no longer edible. Most foods are safely used long past the dates. Throw them out only if the odor is off or there is visible spoilage.

*Too Good to Waste, National Geographic, March 2016