Read on to learn Dana’s top tips on fighting food waste, how that waste happens, and how it harms wildlife (plus a way to take action online).
Jennifer M.: There’s universal agreement that to protect the planet we need to reduce food waste. Why does the United States have so much food waste?
Dana G.: There’s not a simple answer. That’s because food waste isn’t one single problem — it’s countless problems across our entire food system. That leftover broccoli that you never got around to eating and eventually threw away is one thing, but it’s another situation entirely when thousands of pounds of broccoli rot in a field because the cost to harvest it is greater than the price to sell. Even while there are millions of Americans facing food insecurity every day, we’ve been conditioned to expect access to the food we want when we want it — at the grocery store, at restaurants — and there’s a lot of waste when the food system operates to meet that type of demand.
JM: Is it true we waste nearly half the food in our homes? How do government and corporate policies affect how much food is wasted?
DG: ReFED’s new data shows that households generate almost 50% of all wasted food each year. It’s important for consumers to learn proper food management skills so that they buy only what they need and then use what they buy. But often, despite our best intentions, we’re not able to keep everything in our kitchens from going to waste. Businesses have a responsibility to help us do the right thing by producing and selling food in a way that makes it affordable, convenient, and easy to use before it goes bad. And governments can help educate consumers about how to take care of the food they buy so that it’s fresh, safe and delicious. There will always be pits, peels and bones that end up in the garbage. But a lot of good, edible food ends up there too.
JM: Community and home gardens help us reconnect with our food, increase access to produce, and save money. How do they also help tackle food waste?
DG: They’re a great way for people to become reconnected to where their food comes from, which many of us have lost sight of in our industrialized food system. That said, many amateur home gardeners don’t always know how much to plant to yield the right amount, and they end up with more tomatoes than they know what to do with. So check locally to see which organizations accept donations of produce from gardens. AmpleHarvest.org is a great resource.
JM: Can you share a few exciting recent or upcoming projects from ReFED?
DG: We’re excited to have just released new estimates on the amount of food waste in the United States. These numbers are so important for businesses, funders and policymakers to understand the problem and where to direct resources. We also just hosted our annual Food Waste Solutions Summit in St. Louis, and we loved coming together with the food waste community to figure out how to drive real change in the food system.
JM: What are your favorite resources for learning more about fighting food waste?
DG: ReFED’s website offers an information page about consumer food waste. Another great resource is SaveTheFood.com, which offers recipes and meal planners to help you use all the food you buy. For people who really want to geek out on food waste data, ReFED’s Insights Engine offers the most comprehensive examination of food waste in the United States and solutions to reduce it. Food waste is a solvable problem, and dozens of solutions already exist. They just need to be implemented.
JM: Dana, thank you for your insights and all this important information.
DG: Thank you, Jennifer!
Readers: Did you know wasted food wastes 80 million acres of U.S. wildlife habitat? Or that wasted seafood wastes about 2 billion pounds of marine life caught in U.S. fishing nets every year?