What is Food Waste?

For many of us, we have the luxury of opening up a fridge or pantry and choosing what we want and not having to worry about finishing it because there’s always more. We don’t often worry about where the rest of our pad thai, pizza, or hamburger goes once we toss it away. But there is not an endless supply of food on this planet. 

Humans need food to survive. Food has become not just a necessity for human civilization, but a pinnacle of culture, a profession, and a defining characteristic of a society. Cities and towns across the globe rely on imports of food from various regions to nourish their citizens. Oftentimes, fresh food such as vegetables, fruits, and proteins perish on the journey from where they were grown to where they are being sent to. Restaurants and retail stores have high standards for their produce, and often those standards overemphasize appearance and disregard the edibility of the produce. That food that is no longer “fresh” enough to serve at its final destination does not get served and therefore gets wasted. Of that food that does reach its final destination in peak form, not all of it gets eaten, as food often comes in excess to the countries that can afford it. 

Food waste is a large and extremely imminent problem in the world today. According to Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a non-profit food rescue organization whose mission is to eliminate food from being wasted in restaurants, one in nine people in the world suffered from food insecurity in recent years. The issue extends worldwide, and the United States is at the root of the problem. 40% of food gets wasted yearly in the United States, and when you convert that amount into monetary value, it sums up to roughly $162 billion annually. Of the amount of food wasted, roughly 30% of that is meat, poultry, and fish, followed by vegetables at 19%, dairy products at 17%, fruit at 12%, and grain products at 7%. Along with all of this food wasted, the water used to produce the food gets wasted as well. Currently, 1.2 billion people on earth live in water scarcity, and much of the water we do have access to is going to waste, producing food that ultimately never gets eaten. The UN Environment puts food waste into a global perspective, by stating that the yearly food waste of developed countries (222 million tonnes) is almost equal to the entire net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). 

Although food waste is a large and daunting global issue, there are steps that we as individuals can take in our daily lives that will help eat away at food waste and will slowly make the earth a more sustainable and resilient planet.

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