Food For Thought
By Cassie Leithead
Imagine walking into the Rose Bowl Stadium, expecting to see 90,000 football fans, only to see a stadium full of wasted food. In this day and age, Americans are wasting enough food to fill the Rose Bowl Stadium each and every day. Food waste is a serious problem in the United States, but there is good news. Each and every one of us can do something to help combat food waste and stop it from running rampant. I am here today to discuss three points on how wasting food is affecting the agricultural industry: First, we will cover specifically where food waste occurs; next, the impact of food waste on our pocket books and the environment; and finally, how to improve the American consumer’s awareness, as well as finding solutions to resolve this problem.
At the farm production level, food loss falls into two categories: food that is never harvested, and food that is lost between harvest and sale. It is difficult for farmers to grow exactly the amount of food that will match demand. This supply and demand creates food waste. Some produce may not be harvested because of damage caused by pests, disease, and weather. In other cases, it is due to economics. If market prices are too low at the time of harvest, growers may leave some crops in the field because they will not cover their expenses for the labor and transport. Also, growers may plant more crops than there is demand for in the market as security against weather and pests or to wager on high prices. Food loss occurs with the use of machines. Machines are not guaranteed to collect every piece of the crop. For example, not every kernel of corn will be picked up when being combined.
Other losses occur when the – “Use by” and “best by” dates, commonly found on both perishable and nonperishable products, are used as a hard and fast rule, instead of only manufacturer suggestions for peak quality. “Use by” and “best by” dates do not indicate food safety, as is commonly believed, nor are they regulated. Instead, the “best by” date denotes the optimal period of time, during which the manufacturer feels that their product will retain its original quality. The product may still be enjoyed after the “use by” date. In many cases, just by using your senses, it can be determined if the item in question is safe for consumption. Think about this. In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants, and homes-valued at approximately $161 billion-went uneaten. We understand where food waste occurs. Now let’s talk about the impact it has.
Food waste has a huge impact on the Earth. Forty percent of all food that is taken home in America goes uneaten. Instead of filling empty plates with the $165 billion of wasted food each year, the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills, as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste. Restaurants account for 15 percent. Although 15 percent does not seem like a lot, it’s enough to fill 13,500 seats in the Rose Bowl Stadium. All of this waste accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing this habit of waste by 15 percent, would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans for a year. One in six Americans lack a secure food supply to their table, and many Americans are spending $2,500 just on food that is wasted each year. We could easily save money by wasting less food and by using what we already have. With some planning and creativity, tonight’s dinner could be lying in wait just beyond the cupboard doors. We’ve discussed the impact of food waste, now let’s talk about preventing it.
What can we do to prevent food waste?
If you end up having extras, be INVENTIVE. For example, a plain steak from the night before could be turned into sandwiches or sliced up and put into a salad. The options are limitless!!! Food waste can be decreased with a smart storage plan. If you are not going to eat the leftovers, try freezing them! Frozen raw beef, steak, and roasts stay at their peak of freshness between six to twelve months. Cooked carrots and spinach last between ten to twelve months. Milk can last three months and bacon can last one month.
Be aware of what is in your kitchen. Knowing what is on your shelves and in your pantry allows you to check easily to see if you have what you need for making meals without having to shop. If you don’t have supplies already hiding in your kitchen, then go shopping but shop WISELY. Plan your meals. Making a list helps you know exactly what you need. The tricky part is avoiding impulse buying and marketing tricks. Yes, foods look good, which is why eating before shopping helps you avoid those impulse buys. When you give into those impulses, instead of wasting, you can donate to food kitchens. Not only is it saving food, but it is an act of kindness. Also food portions can be smaller. According to the article “Suggested Servings from Each Food Group”, a table that they show says that the suggested number of servings from each food group should be based on a daily intake of 1,600 to 2,000 calories. 
We’ve discussed the where, what, and ways to prevent food waste. Every day people throw untouched food in the garbage. They do it without thinking about the cost, or the effect this has on other people, not only in the U.S. but around the entire world. Now I understand the facts about food waste. I understand that by reducing food waste, we can save money. I understand by reducing food waste, we can prevent hunger and methane emissions in the U.S. Let this change your viewpoint as well. Imagine walking into the Rose Bowl Stadium and watching football with 90,000 other fans, rather than sitting with food waste.