- Author: Hannah Lee
Governor Jerry Brown has issued a letter of support and several state agencies have announced the week of March 5-9, 2018 as California's first Food Waste Prevention Week. Happening in March to coincide with National Nutrition Month, partners nationwide are urging everyone to Go Further with Food. According to the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Californians throw away nearly 12 billion pounds of food each year, wasting precious land, water, energy, and human resources and contributing about 18 percent of all the material that goes to our landfills.
While many people may not think much of tossing food in the trash, consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farms, grocery stores, or restaurants. Forty percent of all food thrown out happens at the individual or household level. Unused food can add up financially for families. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that an average family of four tosses out about 1,000 pounds of food each year, wasting roughly $1,500.
There are other costs from our unused food. The United States is losing up to 40% of its food from farm, to fork, to landfill. That translates to $218 billion lost including costs of food to consumers and retailers, as well as wasted water, energy, fertilizer, cropland, production and transportation. When food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane gas - a climate pollutant 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20 year period.
The quality and amount of food that people eat each day play a vital role in health and wellbeing. A 2014 USDA report estimated that a staggering 1,249 calories per person, per day in the United States are wasted—more than enough to feed all the 1 in 8 Californians currently experiencing hunger and food insecurity. That nutrition loss could have fed people, not landfills, if only it had been used, instead of tossed. According to Feeding America, over 4.8 million Californians experience hunger or food insecurity, over 1.8 million of whom are children.
Reducing food waste requires action by partners throughout the food system, including food growers, processors, and retailers. But it also requires action from all individuals as well as agencies, organizations, businesses, and community groups. For example, there are many ways for various groups to reduce waste as well as to rescue food and donate it locally.
During Food Waste Prevention Week, we are issuing a Food Waste Reduction Hero Photo Challenge to our workforce and, as appropriate, to our external partners and the public. Reducing food waste in your home, workplace and community requires some thinking and planning. We ask that you join us and take the Challenge!
All you have to do is take a few photos (drawings and videos also accepted) with short captions that demonstrate:
1) How food waste happens in your home, workplace or community; and
2) Barriers you face in reducing the amount of food you throw away, such as the food packaging or portion size options available for purchase, bulk pricing incentives, storage or time constraints, food disposal options, etc.; and
3) What actions, or changes, you are making or solutions you see happening around you to reduce food waste.
Submissions can include before and after pictures, or pictures identifying the food that is the hardest to stop discarding in your household. Some solutions-based photos might include things like imperfect or ugly produce being used, appropriate portion sizes on plates, freshly frozen food to be used at a future date, excess fresh produce from a bulk retailer being shared with neighbors, or any other creative strategies you want to highlight. Simply share your submissions via social media platforms using the hashtag #SaveTheFoodCA and tag @SaveTheFood on Twitter and/or Instagram or email them to SaveTheFoodCA@gmail.com. Please include your location and organizational affiliation (employee or patron of which participating agency) with your submission.
Incorporating a few simple food waste prevention actions - such as freezing food and using leftovers – can immediately help reduce food waste.
Stay tuned all week for resources, tips, and ideas. To learn more, please visit Save The Food. Interested in other ways to reduce food waste? Check out the Public Health Alliance of Southern California's Resource Library and CalRecycle's Resource Directory.