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Food Waste: We are the Problem and the Solution

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It is difficult to picture mountains of food rotting in landfills across the country when one in six Americans is food-insecure, living each day not knowing what their next meal will be. The food in these piles adds up to $165 billion a year. We are spending $165 billion on food that is never consumed.

Food waste in America has received more attention in recent months, in most part thanks to the NRDC report by scientist Dana Gunders. The primary take-away from the findings is that we waste 40% of our food. This food could feed millions of people. And, according to the report, food production from farm to table uses 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, half of our land, and 80% of the freshwater we consume. When we waste our food, we waste these finite resources.

Businesses and organizations are coming up with innovative ideas to reduce waste. Farm to Freezer addresses surplus fresh produce at the local level by freezing unsold produce from farmers markets and making it available to people in need. Nourish Now recovers food from restaurants and groceries then repackages and distributes food to those in need. The Montgomery County, MD Food Recover Task Force connects surplus food providers with social service food agencies to better distribute food to people who are food-insecure.

Food that is no longer fit for consumption should be diverted from our land-fills. Bio-composting is the process of turning organic matter such as food waste into a useful source of clean energy. Re-Nuble plans to do exactly that. Specializing in the sustainable recycling of organic waste, Re-Nuble collects food scraps, yard trimming, etc. and converts them into environmentally safe fertilizer and clean, renewable energy. 

What You Can Do At Home

According to the NRDC, American families throw out roughly 25% of purchased food and beverages. The magazine Biocycle is a resource people can use to learn how to bio-compost and handle organic residuals in their home, community, business, etc.

You can also hire a compost company like Compost Crew to pick up your home or office food waste. Compost Crew helps to promote a sustainable community by giving the food scrap compost to local urban agriculture. Sign up online here

We all need to take responsibility for the food we waste and take action to make changes in our food chain. At home we can plan shopping trips ahead of time to ensure we buy only what we need. Businesses can reduce inefficiencies by tracking the waste they produce and building strategies to reduce it. Farm to Freezer and other creative businesses and organizations are working to improve our local food system so that we can reduce food waste, nourish the hungry, and protect our planet.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

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