Recently I had my eyes opened wider to something that I knew was going on, but not quite to this degree. I recently watched Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, a documentary run on MSNBC about wasted food in America. The documentary trails a couple who vows to live of salvaged food (previously unwanted or thrown out food which they saved) for six months. Along their journey we hear from experts who paint the picture for us of what is really going on.
Allow me to jump right in. Up to 40% of all food produced in America is thrown out. This largely comes from the grocery store industry tossing food that is deemed "unsellable" at the end of the day. Other of this comes directly from farms who are forced to weed out crops that are not shaped the desired way. Some comes from restaurants scraping what we don't finish off our plates. And also a lot of this comes from our own refrigerators, the food we buy but can't consume before it spoils.
While 40% of all food produced is thrown out, one in seven Americans do not know where their next meal is going to come from.
Up to 40 million tons of wasted food goes into landfills in American each year.
Here's what you can do:
Learn about labels. Sell by, use by, enjoy by, etc labels are not federally required to be present on foods with the exception of baby formula. Sell by dates should never be seen by consumers. They are a date to tell stores when to sell by to ensure a lengthy shelf life once the product hits consumers homes. Use by, etc labels are only an indication of freshness not of safety. If you eat a product after the use by date you aren't going to become sick, you just may not be eating the freshest product possible.
Bend a little. I know all our money is valuable and we want the best for it, but if you notice a certain less than perfect product in the grocery store (dent in a can, one cracked egg in a carton) save it from certain death. That is save if from being thrown away and use it anyways, despite it's less than perfect appearance.
Think about what you buy and will eat. Be mindful about your shopping and try your best not to over buy. Buy enough to get you through, but don't buy too much that you will end up tossing. Always take your leftovers home from a restaurant.
Get creative. If there are a couple of things that need to be used quickly in your fridge, think of creative ways to use them instead of tossing them out.
France looks to be taking this issue very seriously and doing something to stop it. France plans to sign into law that supermarkets may no longer throw out unsellable food, but rather donate it to charities. This law will also bring education about food waste in stores and businesses. However, over time the aim is to better manage food supply management so overproduction is decreased. Read the entire Guardian article here.
Seeing all this happen has got me curious as to what the dumpsters outside of my local grocery stores look like. Stay tuned as I investigate, in my own area, ways to possibly save more food from the landfills.