Friday, April 8, 2016

Consumers to the food rescue! by Grace Burchard

We all know food waste happens; we throw away last week’s leftovers or leave bananas on the kitchen counter until they are black. Wasting food is somehow condoned: “It’s not that much food I’m wasting, right?” The recently released ReFED report, A Roadmap to reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20%, shows that U.S. citizens throw away 27 million tons of food waste every year, which has a value of 144 billion dollars. 
(A Roadmap to reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20%, 2016, p.11)

When many people think of food waste, if they think of food waste, the blame is usually placed on Supermarkets and Grocery Stores, but those businesses contribute 8 million tons of food waste a year. So, the biggest problem are consumers. We are the problem, but we are also the solution. 

(A Roadmap to reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20%, 2016, p.13)
ReFED states that part of the problem with food waste in homes is because 55% of food purchases are unplanned, which leads to over purchasing. Everyday people are bombarded with commercials to buy certain products, and trustingly and thoughtlessly we just keep buying. Interestingly, the most wasted food items are fruits and vegetables, because of their delicate shelf-life and perishability they are more susceptible to being considered waste. Although cosmetically produce can appear imperfect, there is always something we can do to recover the much needed nutrients of fruits and vegetables, or at the very least the energy.
ReFED identifies the most cost effective solutions to food waste. Consumer Education Campaigns are highest on the list to “raise awareness of food waste and educate consumers about ways to save money and reduce food waste”(ReFED, 2016). Many consumers have stated that even though they understand the importance of reducing food waste, they fail to understand their part or the power they have in solving the problem. In second place, Consumer Facing Businesses have a big role to play in supporting consumers to make resourceful food purchasing decisions, while also becoming more strategic in their own food purchasing strategies.
(A Roadmap to reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20%, 2016, p.13)
In 2015, Walmart ran a video campaign in checkout lanes explaining why shoppers save money by reducing food waste at home. To reduce food waste by 20% today, we need more than just the education of consumers by businesses, we need recycling infrastructure, and policy changes across the food system, but mostly we need a grassroots movement to change our culture of waste into a culture of resourceful use of food.

 ReFED gives very good examples and solutions on how to reduce food waste, but a lot of the solutions require that organizations and corporations change the way they function, which seems difficult to accomplish without the social pressure of public demand. A coalition of organizations has started organizing a food waste awareness building event in Portland, ME to prove we can feed thousands of people on surplus food, and inspire innovative solutions to tackle this issue for the future of Maine's food system.  Please get in touch to get involved!

For consumer campaign ideas see Feeding the 5000, Brussels

Grace Burchard is a third year student at College of the Atlantic focusing on sustainable agriculture and food system studies, currently working with Hannah Semler at Healthy Acadia's Gleaning Initiative to learn about how the theory of food security is put into practice. Go Grace!

No comments:

Post a Comment