Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the EPA Administration announced a first-ever national food waste reduction goal – a 50% reduction by 2030 – joining with private industries and charitable organizations. This is after the joint USDA and EPA U.S. Food Waste Challenge initiative from 2013 which attracted over 4,000 participants a year after it started, surpassing its original goal of 1,000 participants by the year 2020.
From a USDA press statement:
Food loss and waste is single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the United States. Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions.
This announcement comes a week before a UN General Assembly which will address sustainable food production and consumption by world leaders.
If the concept sounds too big to process, it isn’t. Ending food waste begins in homes as well as with businesses that prepare food. Here are some tips from Choosemyplate.gov for planning, purchasing, preparing, and storing food prepared at home, and as well as what to do with product you need to throw out.
- Planning Meals: Prepare a shopping list and develop a game plan when grocery shopping after creating a meal plan or menu. When making menus, look at the inventory you currently have in the cupboard as far as canned goods and staples go, and the refrigerator and freezer for items to use up first. Grocery lists can prevent over purchasing and can help reduce impulse buying for things you really don’t need.
- Food Safety: Knowing the basics of food safety will prevent food from being tossed simply from improper handling, preparing, and storing. The downloadable Kitchen Companion: Your Food Safe Handbook is a great resource to have in the kitchen. And when planning the weekly menus, it’s a great opportunity to clean out the refrigerator and freezer at the same time preventing food borne illness and keeping the refrigerator organized. Remember to keep perishables at the back of the refrigerator and separate raw meats, poultry, and seafood from other foods.
- Composting: Instead of throwing out organic material – which goes straight to the landfill – try composting. Things that can be composted: fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, teabags, and nutshells. Food products that cannot be composted include dairy products, fats, and meat and fish scraps or leftovers, which all contribute to rodents and flies.
If you are a business or an organization that prepare or handle food (grocers, hotels, universities, restaurants, caterers, entertainment venues, theme parks, etc.), consider joining the FRC (Food Recovery Challenge) as either a participant or an endorser. Participants donate leftover food and endorsers promote sustainable food management.
According to Vilsack, 1,500$ of food is left uneaten per year, per family of four in the U.S. By challenging ourselves, we can all reduce that amount in our own homes.