Hunger is not limited to third-world countries. There are millions of households in the United States that are “food insecure,” meaning they struggle to provide enough food for their family. Although Americans have become increasingly aware of the issues of food waste, the amount of those who freely admit to being part of the problem is shockingly high.
In 2000, 33.79 million tons of food was wasted in America. Within 10 years that number went up by 16 percent and continues to rise today. Currently, there are nearly 50 million Americans who rely on food stamps in order to feed themselves and their families.
There is a reason your parents harped on you at dinner time and demanded that you sit at the table and “clean your plate.” Not only because they probably “slaved over the hot stove all day,” they have most likely experienced, in some way, the effects of the Great Depression. Wasting food was a slap in the face to those who were suffering from serious starvation and a luxury that only the very wealthy could afford.
HAS THE UNITED STATES CHANGED SINCE THOSE HARD TIMES?
Although America’s issues with food have vastly improved, the “wasteful” issues remain the same or could actually be considered worse in today’s society. You no longer have to be “wealthy” to be a part of the wasteful masses. Leaving food on your plate in a high priced restaurant is no different than ordering too much off a dollar menu, cooking too many burgers at a Saturday BBQ, or selfishly letting the abundance of vegetables from your lush garden wither to an inedible state. That extra spicy-chicken sandwich you tossed in the garbage could be the reason a child avoids going to bed hungry.
Americans today are surrounded by restaurants that offer excessive portions of food. This gives diners two choices: eat all the food and risk becoming a part of America’s obesity problem, or graze the plate like a baby bird leaving perfectly edible food to be thrown in the trash.
HOW DOES FOOD WASTE AFFECT OUR ECONOMY AND TAXES?
America’s food waste is taking a toll on the U.S. energy budget, 10 percent to be exact. For example, 80 percent of our freshwater goes to the farms that grow our fresh food, which takes up 50 percent of the United States soil. However, 40 percentOF that food is uneaten and wasted. Each year Americans throw away 50 million tons of food, which is 20 percent of the contents of our landfills. People are going hungry and taxes are rising because of our wastefulness and neglect in the food department of our lives.Good news is: “The federal government has established a national goal to cut food waste by 50% by 2030.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO HELP?
Most of us can admit having stocked our fridge with more food than necessary and two weeks down the road our trash bins are full of what we failed to consume. Conscious shopping leads to less food waste, which ideally should be narrowed down to no food thrown away at all.
When you go food shopping, think about what you’ve tossed in your cart and ask yourself: “How much of this will I actually consume?” The same goes for eating out. You can’t ask your server to put your half-eaten steak back on the grill for the next person to enjoy, but you can start small and if your appetite says “more please,” then keep those tater-tots coming. Odds are, you’ll start to figure out that most of the time your extreme hunger is simply a case of “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
Being aware of the problem should be motivation to stop food waste in its tracks, but it all starts with you. Be mindful of how much food you purchase at the grocery store or order at your favorite restaurant… this will keep you mindful of how much of that food you throw away. Purchasing food that is created for long-term storage is another great way to keep the waste to a minimum. Freeze-dried food is not only something that has an incredible shelf life, it is delicious, easy to store, and perfect for meals or for snacking.