400lbs of food per person is wasted annually, and 1 in 7 Americans goes hungry each day, but creative people are making a difference
You’re in the supermarket buying tomatoes, and one accidentally rolls onto the floor, rendering it soft on one side. Do you put it back on the pile, thinking it’s the store’s problem now, or do you throw it in with your other picks, figuring it will be fine in a soup or a salsa?
Do you pour milk down the drain if it’s a day or two after the marked “sell by” date?
Do you ever wonder if something can be done with the leftover dinner that you don’t have “wrapped” at the restaurant?
Do you cringe when you’re cleaning up after the holiday party, as you dump plates of half-eaten food into the trash?
Most of us see examples of food loss or food waste regularly. Worldwide, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says up to a third of all food is “spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people.” In the United States, one organization estimates that about 400 pounds of food per person is wasted annually, yet one in seven Americans goes hungry each day.
More and more, however, individuals and charitable organizations are finding ways to salvage food and get it to those who need it most.
“More than enough food is getting thrown away to feed all these people,” said Rachel Novick, director of the Minor in Sustainability at the University of Notre Dame.
Food insecurity is the obvious reason to try to salvage agricultural products, but there are environmental reasons as well. A Harvard University report says that approximately 21% of the United States’ fresh water supply and 300 million barrels of oil are used to produce food that goes to waste.
Food loss and waste are found everywhere, from farms to homes. Low market prices and high labor costs often make it uneconomical for farmers to harvest all that they produce, says ReFED, a collaboration of over 30 business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the U.S. “Strict cosmetic standards result in insufficient demand for imperfect-looking produce (i.e. oversized zucchinis or bent carrots),” ReFED says in the report “Rethinking Food Waste through Economics and Data: A Roadmap to Reduce Food Waste. “Despite gleaning and farm-to-food-bank efforts to recover this unharvested food, the vast majority is left in the fields.”
The problem has been on the radar of several charitable organizations for years. The New Hampshire Food Bank, a program of Catholic Charities of New Hampshire, provides more than 12 million pounds of food each year to food pantries, homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens and about 400 other registered non profits throughout the state, according to Kathryn Marchocki, spokeswoman for Catholic Charities New Hampshire. The agency sponsors several innovative programs to make sure good food doesn’t go to waste, collaborating with grocery chains and retailers that “have high quality food that is nearing its shelf life, to make sure that it doesn’t get thrown away,” Marchocki said. “They’ll pull this food—mostly meat—freeze it and provide it to us.”