Food waste is a prominent and incessant issue worldwide, with over 1 billion tons of it wasted yearly, leading to a multitude of environmental and ethical issues. Approximately “one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is never eaten. By category, this includes 45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat” (blog.ifco.com). Statistics this appalling should be all the evidence needed to adopt behaviors and methods aimed at dismantling these damaging trends, and it will require small life changes of many to make any sort of substantial progress.
The United States is the second most wasteful country—right after Australia—with an estimated 278 kilograms (roughly 600 pounds) of food wasted per capita each year. America is an economic powerhouse, yet we are at the forefront of food waste. This unmistakably perpetuates the hunger problem on both a national and global scale. Food insecurity—or, the lack of consistent access to food—affects around 40 million Americans a year. Every community is impacted, though it is most frequently rural communities and marginalized people bearing the brunt of it.
Having to keep up with consumer demands also requires industries to ramp up production rates, ultimately causing an increase in the resources used. Because of this, higher quantities of emissions (CO2, nitrogen, and phosphorus, to name a few) are released, inevitably impacting the environment in a negative way. There is a lot of wasted water during this process as well, considering agriculture alone accounts for 38 percent of water consumption in the United States.
Fortunately, there are a variety of local initiatives in Raleigh, NC that can help you to combat the issue of food waste—one of which is a curbside collection project through the Wake County government. "One-fourth of Wake county household trash consists of organic materials" that can be easily composted (wakegov.com). Four different locations in Raleigh and the surrounding areas provide specifically-labeled bins for the assemblage of food waste, and they even feature detailed signs that describe what is and isn’t accepted so as to avoid any confusion. This program gives residents an easy way to compost organic waste, thereby reducing pressures on local landfills and decreasing the amount of excess nutrients leached into the environment.
Furthermore, the popular grocery store chain, Food Lion (established in Salisbury, North Carolina), formed the organization Food Lion Feeds in 2014. Simply put, this operation strives to provide meals to those lacking access to nutrients found in the basic food groups. There are many ways in which one can get involved; individuals can donate money and food, or volunteer at a local food pantry. They even find fun ways of promoting their objective while simultaneously connecting with the general public, such as the No Empty Plate challenge that has spread across several social media platforms. With this challenge (lasting until September 30, 2019), you can post a selfie holding an empty plate and include the hashtags #FoodLion and #NoEmptyPlate in order to qualify; if your post qualifies, Food Lion will donate one meal to participating food banks. Though originally aiming to reach a goal of 500 million meals by 2020, Food Lion has since surpassed that, with an average of 56,517 meals donated every single day for the last five years. Their new goal is to provide 1 billion more meals by the year 2025.
In order to reduce food waste, we need to first pinpoint the underlying causes; however, it’s important to acknowledge that from a global perspective, there is not a sole response in regards to tackling this issue, especially considering that dissimilar regions are affected in different ways. Taking your local community into account is an integral part in finding a solution. From there, we can implement intentional approaches to hasten the process of eradicating waste, whether it be something as simple as establishing better ways of preserving food (in a natural and beneficial way), composting excess organic waste, or donating our surplus to charities. There is a way for everyone to contribute to the cause, regardless of the direction you feel best represents your own values. So in the name of eradicating food waste, let's cook our meals thoughtfully and pledge to eat our leftovers.