As much as 40% of the food produced in the United States goes to waste every year. At the same time, millions of people in our country are struggling with hunger. Every wasted meal is one that could have gone to a family in need. If we could cut the amount of wasted food by 15%, we could feed 25 million more Americans every year.
The Cost of Food Waste
Americans waste an estimated $165 billion worth of food every year. The environmental costs are staggering. Vast amounts of land, fresh water, and energy are consumed in the production of food that’ never eaten. On top of that, when this food decomposes it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas. But you don’t need to be a scientist to see the impact: Visit your local landfill and you’ll find that more food is being dumped than paper, plastic, metal, or glass.
The Causes of Food Waste
Food goes to waste at every stage in food system from farming to processing to retail to our own homes. Low crop prices and labor shortages may discourage farmers from harvesting everything they grow. Strict manufacturing standards cause good produce to be thrown out for aesthetic reasons. Confusing date labels lead grocery stores and consumers to discard good food.
The Solution to Food Waste
Food banks offer a solution: take good food that would have gone to waste and send it to people in need. Since 1981, Feeding America West Michigan has been working with local farmers, grocery stores, and processors to rescue food. We take that food and sort, inspect, and repack it at our food bank. Then we distribute it to a network of local partner agencies — food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, and schools — that provide it to people in need. With this model, we were able to provide 28.9 million pounds of food in 2016.
The impact is even larger on the national scale. Each year our national Feeding America network rescues and distributes nearly 3 billion pounds of safe, edible food that would have gone to waste otherwise.
How You Can Help
Everyone eats. Everyone has a role to play in fighting food waste. Here are a just a few ways you can get involved:
Support Your Local Food Bank: Food rescue takes money and time. You can help by making a financial donation or volunteering at your local food bank. If you live outside West Michigan or the Upper Peninsula, visit FeedingAmerica.org to get connected.
Eat “Ugly”: When it comes to food, beauty isn’t skin deep. Just because a tomato has a strange shape or an apple has a blemish doesn’t mean it’s bad. By buying imperfect produce, you’re sending a strong message to your grocery store.
Plan, Prep, and Store Smarter: A little forethought can make a big difference when it comes to reducing the amount of food wasted at home. Give these practical tips a try this week.
Can’t Eat It? Compost It!: Composting food produces a small fraction of the greenhouse gases emitted by land-filled food. Plus, you end up with nutrient-rich soil that you can use in your vegetable garden. Get the basics.