America has one of the most abundant food supplies in the world. Despite this, around 48 million Americans do not have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food to meet their daily needs. In addition, one in seven people in the United States struggles with hunger. So why, in a country that produces so much food, are so many people hungry?
Around 31 percent of the food supply in the United States gets wasted. That equates to around 133 billion pounds of food. It has also been estimated that reducing American food losses by just 15 percent would provide food for more than 25 million people in the United States every year. This month, in response to this problem, the United States created its first ever national goal to reduce food waste by 50-percent over the next 15 years.
While food waste is clearly a significant national issue, it is also a problem on an individual level as well. It has been estimated that an average family of four wastes nearly $1,500 of food every year. That equates to around 2 million calories worth of food.
This excellent infographic from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods provides some great information about the problem of food waste, and what we can do to avoid it in our own homes.
Here are some additional tips to help you reduce your food waste:
- Plan your meals. Decide on 6 dinner meals, and leave 1 night unaccounted for so you can use up leftovers. Work out which meal is going to be for which night. Think about perishable items such as fruits and vegetables, and put meals using those foods at the start of the week. If your meal plan includes a large meal that will have leftovers, count it for two nights in the week.
- Make a shopping list and make sure you stick to it at the grocery store.
- Do not shop hungry. This will help you avoid making impulse purchases
- Check your fridge before you go to the grocery store to make sure you do not buy items that you already have at home.
- Do not buy in bulk unless it is a product that you are definitely going to use. If an item is perishable, make sure it is realistic for you to use it all before it spoils.
- Buy frozen produce. This can reduce waste because you will not have leftover vegetables rotting in your fridge.
- Use all edible parts of food. For example, stale bread can be made into breadcrumbs or croutons, and vegetable scraps or meat carcasses can be used to make stock for soups or stews.
- Buy loose produce when possible. If you need 2 carrots for a recipe, try to buy 2 carrots rather than a whole bag.
- Shop more frequently. While this may not be a very welcome suggestion, shopping more frequently prevents people from buying large quantities of items that ultimately get wasted.
- Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables.
- Follow proper, safe food storage techniques. This will help prevent food spoiling before you get around to using it.
- Use your freezer for leftover item. You can freeze fresh ginger, chopped onions, stale bread for breadcrumbs, over-ripe bananas for smoothies or baking, leftover meals, tomato paste, and many other foods that you do not use up in one recipe.
- Do not pick pretty produce. The ugly produce at the store is more likely to be passed up by consumers, and ultimately thrown away.
- Check your cupboards regularly to make sure food items do not get forgotten. If you have soft fruits, throw them in a smoothie. If you come across wilting vegetables, make a soup or stock.
If you want to know more about the problem of food waste and hunger in the United States, and how you can get involved, Feeding America has lots of great information on their website.