5 Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste

Five Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste | Nourishing the Planet.


Five Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste

January 18, 2012 – By Graham Salinger

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of edible food is thrown away by retailers and households. In the United Kingdom, 8.3 million tons of food is wasted by households each year. To make the world more food secure consumers need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less.

Food waste remains a large factor contributing to food insecurity around the world, but consumers can help reduce the amount of food that is wasted each year. (Photo credit: Back to the Garden Inc)

Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five ways that consumers can help prevent food waste.

1. Compost: In addition to contributing to food insecurity, food waste is harmful to the environment. Rotting food that ends up in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is a major contributor to global climate change and can negatively affect crop yields. Composting is a process that allows food waste to be converted into nutrient rich organic fertilizer for gardening.

Compost in Action: In Denver, the city contracts with A1 Organics, a local organic recycling business, to take people’s waste and turn it into compost for local farmers. Similarly, a new pilot program in New York City allows patrons to donate food scraps to a composting company that gives the compost to local farmers.

2. Donate to food banks: Donating food that you don’t plan to use is a great way to save food while helping to feed the needy in your community.

Food Banks in Action: In Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta Community Food Bank relies on food donations to supply 20 million pounds of food to the poor each year. In Tennessee, the Second Harvest Food Bank works to reduce waste resulting from damaged cans by testing the cans to make sure that they don’t have holes in them that would allow food to spoil. For more on how you can donate food that would otherwise go to waste, visit Feed America, a national network of food banks.

3. Better home storage: Food is often wasted because it isn’t stored properly which allows it to mold, rot, or get freezer burn. By storing food properly consumers can reduce the amount of food they waste.

Better storage in Action:  The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) is a great resource for consumers to learn a range of techniques to increase the shelf life of food. For example, they recommend blanching vegetables, briefly boiling vegetables in water, and then freezing them. They also stress canning fruits and vegetables to protect them against bacteria.

4. Buy less food: People often buy more food than they need and allow the excess food to go to waste. Reducing food waste requires that consumers take responsibility for their food consumption. Instead of buying more food, consumers should buy food more responsibly.

Buying Less Food in Action: Making a shopping list and planning meals before shopping will help you buy the amount of food that is needed so that you don’t waste food. There are a number of services that help consumers shop responsibly—Mealmixer and e-mealz help consumers make a weekly shopping list that fits the exact amount of food that they need to buy. Eating leftovers is another great way to reduce the amount of food that needs to be purchased. At leftoverchef.com, patrons can search for recipes based on leftover ingredients that they have.  Similarly, Love Food Hate Waste, offers cooking enthusiasts recipes for their leftovers.

5. Responsible grocery shopping: Consumers should make sure that they shop at places that practice responsible waste management. Many grocery stores are hesitant to donate leftovers to food banks because they are worried about possible liabilities if someone gets sick. But consumers can encourage grocery chains to reduce food waste by supporting local food banks in a responsible manner.

Responsible grocery shopping in Action: Safeway and Vons grocery chains donate extra food to Feeding America. Additionally, Albertsons started a perishable food recovery program that donates meat and dairy to food banks. The Fresh Rescue program, which partners with various national supermarkets,  has also helped food banks with fundraising in 37 states.

Do you know of other simple ways that consumers can help in reducing food waste? Let us know in the comments section!

Graham Salinger is a research interns for the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read more about food waste, see: Reducing Food Waste: Making the Most of Our Abundance, Innovation of the Week: Reducing Food Waste, and Fresh Ideas for Food Waste.

Honoring the Farmers that Nourish Their Communities and the Planet

Honoring the Farmers that Nourish Their Communities and the Planet | Nourishing the Planet.

Apr 22

Honoring the Farmers that Nourish Their Communities and the Planet

Molly Theobald

Thuli Makama with villagers affected by the game park (Photo: John Antonelli for the Goldman PrizeAt yesterday’s Goldman Environmental Prize Ceremony, innovative farmers took center stage as four of the six grass roots activists and community leaders from around the world were honored for their work to alleviate hunger and poverty through environmentally friendly innovations in agriculture. And the first recipient to speak, Thuli Brilliance Makama, set the tone of the evening when she emphasized the need for more “small initiatives at the local level” to nourish both people and the planet.

“We must manage our environment in an inclusive manner,” Makama, a public interest environmental attorney in Swaziland who works with poor, rural communities living on the fringes of big-game preserves, explained. Fighting, and winning, to gain a voice for these communities— forced off their land and faced with violence and intimidation for gathering the food they need for survival – Makama is hoping to create a more inclusive government decision making process that will preserve Swaziland’s wildlife while allowing people, who have traditionally benefited from the preservation of that wildlife, to thrive as well. To read about the ways farmers and wildlife can benefit from each other see: Helping Farmers Benefit Economically From Wildlife, Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Helping Conserve Wildlife—and Agriculture—in Mozambique,   Building Roots in Environmental Education and In Botswana, Cultivating an Interest in Agriculture and Conservation.

In Cuba, Humberto Rios Labrada, a folk musician, scientist and biodiversity researcher, is working closely with farmers to improve crop diversity and exchange best practices. Believing that “if farmers are the ones making innovative decisions, Cuba can overcome its food problems,” Labrada encourages “alternative methods to alleviating poverty” that involve farmer participation and bring back something he calls “true agri-culture.” Thanks to his work more than 50,000 farmers are improving crop diversity and creating a more sustainable culture of food production—one that values knowledge and the needs of those that will most benefit from it: Cuba’s farmers themselves. To read more about the benefits of farmers groups and crop diversity see: Farmers Learning From Farmers, Reducing Waste Water Contamination Starts with a Conversation, Malawi’s Real “Miracle”, and Listening to Farmers

Lynn Henning accepted her award for identifying and drawing government attention to the thousands of environmental violations committed by the 12 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that operate within a 10 mile radius of her farm in Michigan. “It’s time to produce food with integrity,” she said, “[like the family farmers who have safely] and successfully fed our communities for generations.”

To read about how farmers, activists, academics, and journalists will contribute to State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish Our Planet and collectively challenge the global food community to identify win-win-win solutions that can better feed sub-Saharan Africa see Jumpstarting the Global Discussion About Solutions to Hunger in Agriculture.