“Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money, helping to feed the world, and protecting the planet.” — Tristram Stuart, UK based author, speaker, expert, and campaigner on environmental and social impacts of food
Humans are great at consuming food; however, we’re even better at wasting it. Globally, we throw away 1.4 billion tons of food every year. Meanwhile, 957 million people around the world experience hunger. Food intersects with environmental issues and social injustices, while hunger transcends borders, backgrounds and identities.
Food waste has enormous environmental consequences. On average, Americans waste 30 to 40% of the total food produced every year, which is higher than any other country. One reason for this alarming number is that people often throw out perfectly good food. Tossed food ends up in landfills and emits large amounts of methane as it breaks down, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2! In fact, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 in the atmosphere. Also wasted are the hours of labor spent to produce the food and resources like water, oil, energy, and money used to grow, process, package, and transport goods. Wasting food wastes everything that went into making it.
On the flip side of this issue is the fact that millions of people around the world go without adequate food access and lack food security. Each year, 72 billion pounds of food that could feed the hungry goes to waste in the United States alone. Food insecurity disproportionately affects rural, Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. This is often a result of food apartheid and food deserts, which are areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Systemic racism, including practices like redlining and gentrification, influences who has access to abundant healthy food.
Many individuals, groups, and organizations are combating the gap between food waste and food access. Some companies fight food waste by “upcycling” food that would normally be wasted. Nearly one-third of food grown in the US is thrown out because the produce doesn’t fit a standard size, color or shape. However, the vast majority of these foods are still good to eat! Companies like Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods sell these foods at a lower rate to redirect them from landfill.
Today’s partners are rising to lead the charge. U-Konserve provides reusable and zero waste food storage options that help consumers eat well and reduce food waste. U-Konserve proudly partners with companies and restaurants to implement reusable containers instead of disposables, so food can be stored easily and eaten later. Foodprint educates about the benefits of sustainable food production, and helps us elevate our voices to make positive change in the food system and beyond. Food Tank raises consumer and institutional awareness to inform and propose actionable steps for people to reduce food waste and heal our broken food system.
You can challenge injustices in our food system and pressure larger systems to change. One place to start is your own eating and buying habits. What foods go bad in your fridge before you eat them? How often are you a member of the Clean Plate Club? Create a Social Justice Diet by learning about the history of our lands and food systems, and how they continue to discriminate against specific groups of people. When you do need to toss food, always compost instead of sending organic material to landfill.
Everyone has a right to nourishing food and to define, safeguard, and control their own food systems. We must continue to fight until we all have consistent, secure access to good, healthy food.
Food waste is a complex problem, and the process of getting food from farm to table is far more complicated than one may think. Every step comes at a significant cost to farmers, consumers, resources, and the earth. However, even small individual actions can create major positive impacts!
Conduct a food waste audit in your own household. Throughout today, write down on a piece of paper what food items you put in your trash or compost, if you have one. Estimate the amount (in cups) of food getting tossed. At the end of the day, reflect:
Post a picture of your audit sheet with a clear, concise statement about what YOU will do to combat food waste on Instagram, tagging @TurningGreenOrg, @UKonserve, @FoodprintOrg and @FoodTank with #PGC2021. Let’s make food waste history together!
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
The food justice movement needs all of us. We must all work to ensure that our neighbors, communities, and fellow humans have access to food and the necessary resources to lead happy, healthy lives.
Now, do some research on restaurants in your community. Are there any food donation programs near you? If you can’t find any in the immediate vicinity, find the closest program. Learn about how it operates, how many people it serves, and the process for collecting and distributing food.
Craft a letter to a restaurant in your area that is not involved with a food donation program to encourage them to join. Include support from the articles you read. Bonus points if you get a response! Simply email the correspondence to email@example.com by October 28.
Post the letter (or an excerpt) on Instagram. Tag @TurningGreenOrg, @FoodprintOrg, @FoodTank, and the restaurant, as well as other local organizations involved in this work. Don’t forget to include #PGC2021 too!
Upload a PDF of your letter and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Food insecurity and food waste are both major issues on college campuses. That may seem like a contradiction, but it’s all related. While up to 50% of college students are food insecure, 22 million pounds of food is wasted on campuses across the United States. We can help address both issues by making sure food goes to the students who need it, not to already overflowing landfills!
Write a response of at least 300 words addressing any food issues at your school and brainstorm a few viable solutions that could be implemented.
Post one food waste-related call to action on Instagram that other students can join in on. Make it a simple, clear, eye-catching visual with an informative caption. Tag @TurningGreenOrg, @FoodprintOrg, @FoodTank, other organizations you find doing this work, and #PGC2021.
Upload a PDF document with your responses, and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.
Each Greener Winner will receive:
Each Greenest Winner will receive: