All of us here at Tommy’s love food, which is why we’re glad that documentaries like Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story are gaining traction. We love reading about food, watching the latest cooking shows, trying new recipes, and, of course, sampling the results and sharing our culinary creations with friends! However, there is one thing we don’t love – and that’s food waste. We were shocked and dismayed to learn that in the typical American household, almost 50% of the food we buy or prepare ends up in the trash. We think food is delicious – but that fact leaves a bad taste in our mouths!
The Scary Truth About Food Waste
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), approximately 133 billion pounds of food goes uneaten every year in our country. This includes everything from “blemished” fruits, vegetables, and berries that never make it off the farm to warehouses facilities that throw away food before it ever reaches a store. Of the food that actually makes it to a grocery store, consumers waste another 50% by purchasing more than they can eat before it goes “bad” or exceeds its expiration date.
If the issue of food waste is as important to you as it is to us, we highly recommend you watch the recent documentary film, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. In this informative and insightful story, Canadian filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin spent six months eating only food that was entering the waste stream. When the couple decided to start this experiment, they thought scrounging to survive and being hungry would be a serious reality. However, much to their surprise, finding edible food waste was not as difficult as they originally imagined.
Rustemeyer and Baldwin’s primary objective was to consume only food that was destined for the trash. They also discovered that many supermarkets and warehouses would not sell dated yet still edible food – so they were forced to look into dumpsters to see what was there.
Dumpster Diving for Food
What did they find once they “lifted the lid”? Everything from rice to bread, cheeses and frozen meats, and even higher priced items like maple syrup and organic chocolate bars.
But what they found quite a bit of was imperfect or “ugly” produce. Apples, squashes, and tomatoes that weren’t symmetrically shaped, potatoes that were too large or too small, and any kind of produce that had inconsistency in its color or “freckles” (little dark flecks) on the skin. Nothing was wrong with this produce in any way other than the fact that is was cosmetically unappealing to customers. Because of a few freckles or lumps, that otherwise perfectly delicious and nutritious fruit or vegetable was now destined for the trash heap.
Just Eat It: 5 Ways You Can Reduce Food Waste
So what can we all do to prevent or reduce the amount of food that is wasted? Here are a few tips to try:
- Set up an “eat-me-first” section in your refrigerator, and place all leftovers and other produce that should be cooked or consumed within the next few days.
- Immediately freeze half of whatever recipe you just cooked. Soup, chilli, even pasta sauces can easily be defrosted and reheated.
- Try to purchase less the next time you go food shopping. Sales and specials can be tempting, but you’re not really saving money if you end up having to throw the food away.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and they will last months in your freezer. Plus, once you open a bag, you only need to cook as much as you need – and the rest can be kept frozen for another time.
- Ask your neighborhood grocer or local CSA (community supported agriculture) what they do with “ugly” produce. If enough people voice concerns about edible produce being added to the waste stream, grocery stores, warehouses, and farmers will adopt new policies and procedures.
As you can see, food waste is a serious problem but it’s one that can be changed. Reducing food waste starts at home, with planning meals and not overbuying food and ingredients that you do not immediately need. It also means taking greater responsibility for freezing or preserving food and buying frozen fruits and vegetables when you know you may not have time to prepare and eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
When all of us in the food production stream work together – from farmer to producer to seller to consumer – we can reduce food waste and better utilize every piece of fruit or vegetable, regardless of its shape or appearance!