Reducing Food Waste is Everyone’s Responsibility


According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Forty percent of the food in the United States is never eaten.  But at the same time, one in eight Americans struggles to put enough food on the table.”

These two statistics brought together are mind boggling.  How can this be?

The good news is industry is beginning to understand the role they play in being role models for change.  Some honorable examples include:

  • Compass Group USA, a foodservice provider that serves 9.4 million meals per day, in conjunction with celebrity chef Tom Collicchio and Unilever, announced their commitment to reduce food waste by 25% by 2020

  • Entrepreneurial food startup Forager Project, known for its cold-pressed juices, launched a line of vegetable-based chips made from the pulp leftover from their juice making

  • Barnana, another food startup, purchases “imperfect” bananas from farmers that would otherwise be thrown away and uses them to make their line of snacks

  • The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two leading trade groups representing food retailers and manufacturers, teamed up to streamline “used by” dates on packaging so as to reduce consumer confusion and food waste

It’s not just industry that has to step up to the plate, though.  According to the NRDC Issue Paper Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill, “American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy.”

The good news is we can make small changes in the home to reduce the amount of food we waste as individuals.  And if we all make the effort, we’ll save a lot of food.

Plan your family’s meals for the week, build a shopping list, and stick to it.  Spontaneous purchases are likely to get wasted.  If you know you’re going to be away for a few days, shop accordingly.  

Look through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry before shopping.  How many times have you gone shopping only to buy ingredients you already have at home?  Doing a once over of your food stocks will help prevent waste.

Get creative with special ingredients. Did you find a fabulous recipe that calls for an unusual ingredient?  Most likely you’ll have to buy more of the ingredient than the recipe calls for.  If that’s the case, plan how you’ll use that ingredient again.

Buy ugly fruits and vegetables.  Many organizations are popping up that salvage perfectly delicious and nutritious produce that may not meet retailers’ specificationss and would otherwise be thrown away.  Support these organizations.  

Value canned, dried and frozen.  Fresh foods are highly valued, but their nutrients go to waste when they are left to spoil in the refrigerator.  Frozen, dried and canned foods can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and oftentimes are more cost effective.

Cook once, eat twice.  Chop the whole head of broccoli or lettuce and plan to use the leftovers for tomorrow’s brown-bag lunches. 

Take stock of your food stocks.  Look through your refrigerator every few days to see which fresh items may be starting to go so you can prioritize them when planning meals.  Check your pantry at least once a month to see which foods are expiring soon.

Pick a food waste meal of the week.  Every week, pick one meal that will be dedicated to using food that is on the verge of expiring.  Throw those leftovers into smoothies, egg scrambles, salads, stir-fries, and other recipes where almost any ingredient goes. 

Get on Google. Do you use the broccoli florets but throw out the stems?  Are you taking advantage of those carrot and beet greens?  Get online and do a Google search, and you can quickly figure out how to use these precious food parts rather than waste them.

Share.  Planning a trip and have lots of food in the refrigerator?  Drop off perishable items at your friends and neighbors.  They’ll likely return the favor when they’re heading out of town.