So this fun little viral video out of France finally made its way around to me…
Inglorious Fruits and Veggies! What a novel concept. It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write another post about food waste, a problem that so often goes unnoticed just because many people are unaware of it.
And yet there’s a growing body of information out there. Food isn’t only wasted because it’s “ugly”. Some of it gets wasted before the consumer ever has a chance to see it. Food is wasted across our entire food system; in the field, at the grocer’s, in restaurants, and in our own refrigerators.
For example, 950,000 jars of good peanut butter were dumped in a landfill in New Mexico last year. Why? Because retail giant Costco rejected the shipment – which came from a recently-bankrupt peanut processing company. They chose to discard all 950,000 jars, citing “leaking peanut oil”. You’d think they could have salvaged at least some of those jars. Or, instead of discarding them, they might have considered donating them to a shelter or non-profit.
The Food Recovery Network is one such non-profit that would have taken on those peanut butter jars, despite a bit of sticky peanut oil. In 2011, they opened their doors to stray leftovers from university dining halls and sporting events in order to feed the 1 in 8 people that struggled with hunger in their Washington, D.C. community. Since then, they’ve recovered over 400,000 pounds of food from more than 95 colleges in 26 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. (I’m proud to say that Bon Appetit, the company that manages the cafeteria at my alma mater, is committed to socially responsible food practices, and regularly supports the Food Recovery Network!)
This year, the FRN launched a new “Food Recovery Certification” program for restaurants and businesses (grocery stores, schools, hotels, hospitals, caterers, farmers, etc.) that donate their excess or unsaleable food to local non-profits and charities at least once per month. Upon certification, they receive a bright green window sticker that lets customers know about their commitment to feeding communities (and not community landfills).
In his book American Wasteland, Jonathan Bloom writes about the fact that one barrier to action for restaurants discarding food is “the fear of liability.” What restaurant owners may not know is that they’re protected: in 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act designed to encourage the donation of food and groceries for redistribution to those in need. Unless a restaurant knowingly sends bad food to shelters, this act protects them from any and all liability issues.
I love reading about what other organizations and individuals are doing to combat food waste in their homes and communities. There’s so much to learn, from large-scale efforts (see the Food Recovery Challenge, part of the EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program) to grassroots, in-my-own-kitchen efforts (check out these 21 Brilliant Kitchen Hacks to Help You Cut Down on Food Waste).
For our part, my husband and I have figured out that if we make a dinner menu for the week, we end up buying only what we’ll use. We take our leftover dinners to work for lunch the next day, and we cut waste by not buying food we don’t have a plan for. It’s worked out pretty well, and we have fun trying out new recipes to add to our rotation!
What do you do to prevent food waste in your home?