One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to reduce my food waste. Last year, I bought a pound of chicken, only to leave it in the refrigerator for a week before I could figure out how I wanted to cook it. After that, well … the chicken was no longer safe to eat. I had a tendency to do this with meat a lot. From seafood, to poultry, beef, and pork, I would waste a lot of meat. Finally, I said, “No more!” and decided to keep meat out of my apartment. The end result, a lot less wasted food and a lot more money in my pocket.
Since working at the IFIC Foundation, I have become even more fascinated with food waste. I learned that food can become wasted at any point in supply chain for a variety of reasons. In developing nations, food is lost due to the lack of basic resources such as labor, transportation, and technology. In developed nations, food is often lost after it reaches the consumer; in fact, Americans throw out over 35 million tons of food each year, which, when it decomposes, releases methane, or greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
Another way food is wasted is through culling, or the removal of produce based on cosmetic blemishes. This means that produce that is too small, oddly shaped, off color, or has too many blemishes is thrown out. Culling often happens on either the farm or at grocery stores; and while both take steps to reduce waste, a lot of food is still wasted.
Many start-ups have begun working with farmers to sell these “ugly” fruits and vegetables to consumers, and one of those consumers is me!
By purchasing ugly fruit and vegetables, I am cutting down on food waste by preventing perfectly imperfect produce from ending up in a landfill. If you want to purchase ugly fruits and vegetables, just do a quick internet search for companies near you that may be selling them directly to consumers. Another way is to call a local farm to see if they’re willing to sell you their extra produce. Some national and local grocery stores are beginning to sell ugly produce, as well.
If that doesn’t work, there are still ways you can cut down on food waste, such as buying canned or frozen foods that have a longer shelf life, learning the difference between “sell by” and “use by,” and planning your shopping excursions before going out.
Food waste may be a global problem, but we can all do our part to prevent it from being a problem in the future.