One-third of all the food produced for us to eat goes to waste. That’s 1.3 billion tons per year globally. It’s frustrating to think about that much food going to waste when people across the world go hungry every day.
So, what’s the problem and how do we fix it? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple. Food waste permeates through every layer of the food supply chain — from the field on the farm to the kitchen of the consumer. Produce deemed “ugly” with a bad spot or bruise is often thrown away, food spoils on its trip to the store, grocery stores throw away unsold food, and consumers (that’s you) forget about food and let it over-ripen or go bad, leaving it to end up in the — you guessed it — landfill. And, on top of it all, food in landfills also release greenhouse gases that may contribute to global warming.
The first step you can take as a consumer is to purchase only as much food as you and your family will actually eat. That way you are cutting out one source of waste, and it is as simple as just sticking to the grocery list and making sure you use everything you buy. Even if you did forget about that bunch of bananas on the counter, it turns out that brown bananas make the best banana bread. Here are some other ways to use overripe fruit.
Another easy commitment you can make is to buy produce that is locally grown. By purchasing local, transit time — and therefore, potential food spoilage — is shortened, and you get the benefit of super fresh food and actually knowing where your food came from. At Bowery, we only sell our produce in stores that are close to our farms, which means you can rest easy knowing the produce on the shelf was harvested within a few days. In addition, since Bowery has reduced transit time vs. other produce that may have traveled across the country (or even across the world), our produce may stay fresh for longer in your fridge and further reduce spoilage.
So, while you work to cut food waste on your end, what are other parts of the problem doing? Well, some companies and initiatives have stepped up to the metaphorical plate. The United States Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency issued the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, and some companies that joined include Walmart, General Mills and Blue Apron. These three companies, along with many others, are working to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.
Other initiatives include “ugly produce” programs, such as Hy-Vee’s Misfits produce program. Ugly — or cosmetically challenged — produce with unusual sizes or shapes is sold at an average of a 30 percent discount. Four months after the program began, Hy-Vee announced they had saved 1 million pounds of fruits and vegetables. Other grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, have similar initiatives. Baldor, a specialty foods and produce distributor, has come up with another way of avoiding the landfill. SparCs — scraps spelled backwards and Baldor’s name for any leftover produce they have — such as carrot skins and strawberry tops, are made into juice or dehydrated to make a bouillon-like blend. The less-appetizing scraps feed chickens and pigs, or get composted.
You might not be able to fix the whole food supply chain, but by purchasing from companies like Bowery that are trying to make a difference for food waste, you may make a big difference, one container of produce at a time.