This past week, I watched a documentary that both horrified my and inspired me. The film is called “Just Eat It” and it follows two filmmakers as they become aware of how much food is wasted in North America (almost 50%, with 25% coming from households). The couple pledges to go 6 months only eating food that would have been thrown out (with exceptions at the houses of family and friends). In 6 months, they spent a total of $200 on groceries (culls usually that were going to be thrown out or items that were short dated) and salvaged about $20,000 worth of food. Some of the images in the film were just horribly depressing- a 16 foot long dumpster entirely filled with hummus, and whole boxes of Green & Black’s organic chocolate bars (a personal favorite and I can say they are pretty expensive per bar, never mind per box!)
The film talked a lot about how grocery stores (and consumers) want the “perfect” piece of produce. This means there is tons of produce wasted at the farm- some farms try to connect with local food banks but in other cases it is more expensive to collect the rejected parts and the farmers end up plowing the produce back into the soil as compost. That isn’t the end of the world, but considering how many resources went into the creation of the food it seems crazy to lose 30% or more of the harvest since it isn’t “perfect”. It was really depressing to hear how much food is just wasted- lots of grocery stores just throw out things that are short dated or after their “use by” date instead of donating them to a local food pantry. I learned that except for infant formula, best before dates are determined by the manufacturer and the food is usually good long past that date!
Households also waste about 1/4 or the food they buy (which is insane- imagine coming out of the grocery store with 4 bags and just throwing 1 away in the parking lot). Most of the wasted food ends up in a landfill where it produces greenhouse gasses and contributes to global warming! Plus, all the wasted food took a lot of energy to grow- electricity, water, labor, transportation, etc so it’s a double whammy on the environment.
I was left feeling horribly depressed about all the wasted food in the US, but then I kind of snapped out of it. I may not be able to solve this crisis on a global level, but I can certainly do better for myself and my household.
Things to do to reduce food waste:
- Meal plan and only buy as much as you can eat in a week
- Buy local- local produce is fresher and lasts longer
- Look at the produce that isn’t perfect- a small blemish doesn’t matter
- Try to find a discount grocery store with short dated product- I can save money on dry goods as well as save those items from the dump
- Separate my fruit and veg scraps to be composted. My town dump has a bin for compost but I’ve always had meat scraps in with my food trash. If I take a couple of extra seconds during kitchen cleanup, I can compost produce waste.
Any other ideas out there?