by Elizabeth May, RDN, CSOWM, LDN
What does this year’s theme, “Go Further with Food” make you think of? My first reaction was learning new ways to cook, specifically with fruits and veggies, like spiralizing zucchini, pickling veggies, or creating warm salads.
Here are the key messages as outlined on eatright.org –
1. Include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis
2. Consider the foods you have on hand before buying more at the store
3. Buy only the amount that can be eaten or frozen within a few days and plan ways to use leftovers later in the week
4. Be mindful of portion sizes. Eat and drink the amount that’s right for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do
5. Continue to use good food safety practices.
6. Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week
7. Realize the benefits of healthy eating by consulting with a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
So from the key messages, food waste and meal planning seem to take center stage. Let’s focus on food waste, #2 and #3, today.
How much food is wasted in the U.S.?
40% of the food in the U.S. is never eaten. Financially, this adds up to $165 billion/year. While so much food is being wasted, one in six Americans are food insecure. Ironic, isn’t it?
What exactly is food waste?
The USDA Economic Research Service defines food waste as “the component of food loss that occurs when an edible item goes unconsumed, as in food discarded by retailers due to color or appearance and plate waste by consumers”
Where does food waste occur?
1. Farms (One of the biggest uses of land, energy and water; 6 billion lbs. of produce lay in the fields to rot each year)
2. Fishing boats (Estimated that 8% of fish caught are discarded)
3. Packing houses (1/3 of items are discarded due to cosmetic standards)
4. Transportation and Distribution Networks (perishables are vulnerable)
5. Retail Businesses (mostly perishables)
6. Restaurants (especially due to large portions and buffets)
7. Households (50% of food waste happens at this level; the average American family wastes 1,160 lbs. food/year or 25% of what they buy)
Is anything being done to combat this issue?
There is a lack of public awareness about food waste in the U.S. which might explain why this is still such a huge issues and that 50% of food waste happens at the household level. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a goal, for the first time ever, to reduce food waste. In fact, their goal is to reduce waste by 50% in the next 15 years (by 2030). How exactly will this be accomplished? The EPA is partnering with the USDA and influential leaders in food service to accomplish this goal…
Here are the EPA’s two goals:
1. The 2030 FLW reduction goal aims to cut food loss at the retail and consumer level in half, by approximately 66 billion pounds.
2. The 2030 FLW reduction goal aims to reduce food waste going to landfills by 50 percent to 109.4 pounds per person
So while there is much to be done on a national level (and business level), what can we do on an individual / family level?
•Make a meal plan + check the pantry/fridge while making a grocery list (Use this tool to help!)
•Freeze what you won’t use
•Prep perishables so you eat them
•Have an “eat the pantry” week to clean out the fridge/pantry
•Have a leftovers night 1-2x/week
•Use “ugly produce” in soups, smoothies, casseroles, or baked goods
•Order what you can finish at restaurants or take home leftovers and plan a time to eat them
•Try your hand at composting
What resources are there in Philly to combat food waste/hunger?
-Coalition Against Hunger
-Hungry Harvest (produce delivery service)
-Food Connect App (reducing leftover waste)
During National Nutrition Month, ask yourself how you are doing regarding food waste… this is a change that must start with you.