From Farms to Landfills: Understanding the Alarming Rate of Food Waste in the US and How You Can Make a Difference
Did you know that the food you buy in the grocery stores in America passed a rigorous “attractive” test before it made it on those shelves?
The apples, tomatoes and spinach you just bought are the most appealing and “blemish-free” produce available on the market. Their less-attractive sisters and cousins, on the other hand, did not pass the test. A recent report from The Guardian shows that Americans throw away all most as much food as we eat. Why? Because we want our food to look perfect, of course! From watermelons to avocados, if it doesn’t look just right, we apparently won’t eat it.
Jay Johnson, a produce supplier from North Carolina and Central Florida, says that stores will turn down his product unless it is “blemish-free.” What does that leave him to do? Sadly, he has to throw his product away. But he’s certainly not the only one. The Guardian conducted over 24 interviews with produce experts: farmers, wholesalers, truckers and food packers. Together, they throw away almost 25% of all produce they grow. Around the world, that kind of waste leads to 1.6 Billion Tons of valuable produce being lost per year!
Just imagine: crates of sunburned oranges turning brown under their tree, slightly misshapen bell peppers left to rot in a field or delicious, yet spotted apples dumped right after being plucked.
The Bigger IssueThe problem with this is not only the waste of the produce itself but the fact that we are still seeing a hunger crisis in the U.S. Up to 10% of the American population struggles to find enough food to eat. We simply cannot afford to be losing or wasting any of our food! Another important result of food waste is the rise in methane emissions. This methane rises up from food dumps and is a big factor in global warming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet another side effect of wasted produce is the millions of gallons it takes to grow more! When you abandon hard-grown fruit and vegetables, you put an unnecessary burden on our #1 resource worldwide: H2O.
What is the last line of defense for food to be saved? Our refrigerators.
Yet, Americans still throw away billions of dollars in wasted food every year! Remember, that “blemish-free” food that farmers worked so hard to save? Much of it ends up right in our own trash cans.
Ok, so clearly this is a problem. But what is the solution?
1. Adjust Your Standards
If grocery stores refuse to accept less “attractive” fruit and vegetables, what can we do? See the beauty (and nutritional value) in that lopsided mushroom or oddly-sized asparagus. Then, find companies like Imperfect Produce that help you buy them direct. So, you don’t have to pluck the rejected food from the fields or bribe a farmer to get them into your fridge.
2. Buy In Season
One thing we talked about in our 5 Essentials of Healthy Living post is the amazing value of buying local. However, buying in-season is just as important for you and the environment! In-season produce require much less “help” from humans to look attractive to buyers. This means less pesticides, waxes, chemicals and preservatives will be added to your food. It also means less produce would have been ditched in the trash in the process of getting your chosen fruit or vegetable to your local store.