By Hannah Graham, @H_Graham5

How much food have you thrown away this year?  This is one question most people tend to overlook. When we scrape off our dishes after a large meal, too full to finish the remaining scraps on our plate, we rarely pause and think about the significance of our action. 

Food waste refers to food that is of good quality and fit for human consumption, but that does not get consumed because it is discarded-either before or after it spoils. According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, around $1 trillion, gets thrown away or wasted in food production and consumption systems. It is estimated that 40% of all food grown never gets eaten.

Pretty vs Ugly Food

Think of all the vegetables and fruit you see in your grocery store. Now, what if I told you that more than 6 billion pounds of perfectly good fruit and vegetables go unharvested or unsold each year? You may ask why. Well, it’s because much of the food fall victim to aesthetic trifles (aka Cosmetically Challenged). For example, the tomato too large to fit in a three-pack, the misshapen peach, or the misshapen cucumber. Just because these perfectly edible foods do not fall under a certain appearance to the buyer they are thrown away.  

Stores small and large often overstock so that when the customer walks in they can see all of the food. Now you may think that the easy solution here is to not overstock the shelves; well, that is not entirely the case. According to a small town farm operator, Delaney Zayac of Ice Cap Organics, “If there was one hour of market and I had only one perfectly good bunch of chard, that one bunch of chard would sit there and no one would buy it. But if I had 30 bunches of chard overflowing the crate, I would sell 20-30 crates of chard.” This tells us that individuals are buying impulsively. If people were to see one vegetable by itself on the shelves of the store, they would suspect that something was wrong with that one bunch of chard. We as consumers need to be more efficient and willing to eat vegetables even if they do not fit the specific ideal appearance.

Purchased and Wasted:

I understand the concept of purchasing items in advance in the grocery store, but we are missing something that happens to nearly one-third of the population. We go to the grocery store and purchase these large quantities of food and let it sit in the fridge or freezer and forget about it until the item has gone bad. I'm guilty. It is like going to the grocery store and buying 6 bags of groceries and leaving 2 bags in the parking lot. Horrible right? I know, that from my personal grocery shopping, those 2 bags would be able to feed a family in a developing country.  

What is your knowledge on dairy product expiration dates? Well most people believe that if a carton of milk says “Best Before: July 9” that the milk must be bad and has to be thrown out after that date. Well guess again! “Best before” dates refer to a suggestion of the quality and shelf life of an unopened food product, not safety.  Once you open a food, the “best before” date is no longer valid. So it is merely based on your own judgement of when things go bad. I am not saying to wait to throw it away until it gets moldy, just keep in mind that just because the “best before” date says July 9th and it is July 13th, does not mean you have to throw it away. What could help is merely smelling or tasting the item. As long as you keep your dairy products refrigerated and sealed properly they could last much longer than you may expect.

What Can We Do To Help

1. Take Stock: About 1/3 of individuals admit to rarely checking their home food inventory before going grocery shopping. It is quite problematic for the perishables. Let’s go ahead and take a few minutes to note what we have at home. It will help us save money in the long run.

2. Store Strategically: We all know that the vegetable bin can be the land of forgotten food. Well maybe try moving all the fresh produce at eye level, so it will be a constant reminder to use that produce while it is still fresh.

3.  Attend local farmers markets. In most local farmers markets, the farmers will be selling baskets of ugly produce. Not only does this help decrease the amount of wasted food but it also makes things easier on your wallet. If your local farmers market does not take part in the ugly produce basket, why not suggest it to some of them?

4. Utilizing Your Inventory: Have regular occasions where your household uses up inventory. It is a task to see how barren you can get before needing to restock. When it’s time to restock construct a well thought out plan, so that you only end up buying the amount that will be eaten before it spoils.

5. Join in the Movements: There are many sources available to everyone wether it be for educational purposes or to join in the movement itself. The most well-known source is EndFoodWaste.org

There are so many more actions that we can do to help decrease the world’s food waste. It is time for a change. Let us join the movements of reducing food waste.