04 May, 2014
What’s for Dinner?
We love to eat! So why do we throw away almost half of our food?
Eating is one of the things that we humans need to do to survive. But it’s not just for survival – it’s for enjoyment. We satisfy our cravings and our palates and the act of eating makes us happy. It’s one of life’s purposes.
But not all of us have this privilege, unfortunately.
Even though we know that we are privileged to be able to buy and eat what we want, and that there are people who suffer from hunger in other parts of the world, we throw away almost half of what we eat. We’ve become used to this habit of wastage and we do it mindlessly, without giving the consequences further thought.
We eat over 3000 calories a day even though we only need around 2000 calories. This causes obesity and other food related diseases. On the other hand, around 1 billion people in the world are hungry and most are dying from hunger.
This is not to make you feel guilty about what you eat. This is just to make you aware about those that you throw away. Food waste, fortunately, is an easier problem to solve. It doesn’t require any high tech solution. All we need is to know what causes food waste and how we can change the way we eat.
From Farm to Fork
Here are some food waste facts that might make you think twice about over consuming and over disposing.
- Crops are sometimes left unharvested because they do not meet supermarket quality.
- According to the UNEP and World Resources Institute, 1/3 of all the food produced globally are waster – around $1 Trillion worth! This happens from production to consumption.
- 33 million tons of food waste go to the landfills.
- Consumers in developed countries waste as much food as what is produced in Sub-Saharan Africa. 220 million tons as compared to 230 million tons.
- 1 billion people can be fed by the 40 million tons of food wasted by US retailers and households each year!
- The water used to produce the food wasted can be used by 9 billion people at around 200 liters per person per day!
- In Europe, 40% to 60% of fish caught are discarded! Either because they’re not the right size or quality.
- When we waste food, we also waste water since agriculture is where we use water the most.
- In the US, organic waste is the largest source of methane emissions which adds to global warming more than carbon emissions. Methane is 23x more potent than CO2.
- Reducing food waste by 20% can provide enough food for 25 million people.
Changing a Global Habit
We waste so much food without thought. Here are some things you can do to help stop food wastage.
- Before shopping, make a shopping list and stick to your list.
- Buy only what you can eat before the food spoils.
- Remember that the “best before” date is just a manufacturing standard and it’s usually very conservative. Most food can still be eaten past this date. Don’t rely on the date. Check the food for spoilage. If it looks ok and smells ok, then it’s ok.
- Patronize your local farmers. Food is fresher and they need to consume less resources to bring the food to the market.
- In your refrigerator, bring older items to the front so you can consume them first.
- Store fruits and vegetables properly to extend their shelf life.
- Cut up leftover carrots, herbs, onions, and other vegetables and freeze them. You can still use them to make a vegetable stock.
- Date the food in your freezer so you’ll easily see when they’re nearing the end of their shelf life.
- Donate unused food to the local pantry or food kitchen. You can feed a lot of hungry people this way.
- When eating out, bring home leftover food and eat them. If you don’t like leftovers, order only what you can finish.
- Before you throw away food scraps that are still edible, see if you can recycle them. If you have leftover fried chicken for example, you can use the chicken strips as an ingredient for other recipes. Meat and poultry bones can still be used to make broths and soups.
- Try your hand at composting.
- Find organizations and volunteers who are actively recovering unused or unharvested food to feed the hungry.
Away from the landfill and into hungry stomachs
Food is delicious and it is our privilege to eat what we can buy. But every scrap of food that we waste also wastes water, oil and land. With the number of people starving all over the world, is it too much to ask to lessen our food waste? We don’t even have to look far. Right in our own neighborhood, there are people who can be fed by the food we throw away.
Let’s try to keep food away from our landfills and make it reach those who are in need. Isn’t it outrageous that people are going hungry when we throw away so much? We know you think so too.
These simple ways of changing a global habit can lead to many good things. Let’s prevent global hunger by conserving our food as much as we conserve our energy.
More: The World Counts: Stories
- United Nations Environment Programme: Food Waste Facts
- World Food Day: Food Waste: The Facts
- Huff Post: Food
- End Food Waste Now: Facts
- End Food Waste Now: What You Can Do