Stop wasting food

[Clearly at the point when food rationing begins due to limited amounts of transportation oil, not wasting food will be important, and composting can expected to be the main way of disposal since garbage trucks will run less frequently. Below are excerpts from 2 articles about food waste. Alice Friedemann]

Bringezu, S. 2014. Assessing Global Land Use.  United Nations Environment Program.

The UN stated that if we don’t stop wasting food, we’ll lose the equivalent of an area of land the size of Brazil to agriculture to make up the gap by 2050. A third of food is wasted due to not enough control of pests, inadequate warehouses, and wasteful food processing and consumption. Over 19 million square miles of land are used in global agriculture, 33% crops and 67% pasture. Cities are covering both, reducing biodiversity. The result is by 2050 with 2 billion more people to feed another 3.3 million square miles of land will be needed, which is the size of Brazil.  We need to restore eroded land, cut meat consumption, and stop cities from expanding.

Griffin, M., et al. 2009. An analysis of a community food waste stream. Agric Hum Values (2009) 26:67–81

Food waste comprises a significant portion of the waste stream in industrialized countries, contributing to ecological damages and nutritional losses. Guided by a systems approach, this study quantified food waste in one U.S. County in 1998–1999.

Approximately 10,205 tons of food waste was generated annually in this community food system. Of all food waste, production waste comprised 20%, processing 1%, distribution 19%, and 60% of food waste was generated by consumers. Less than one-third (28%) of total food waste was recovered via composting (25%) and food donations (3%), and over 7,000 tons (72%) were landfilled. More than 8.8 billion kilocalories of food were wasted, enough to feed county residents for 1.5 months.

The trend toward more processed, packaged, and convenience foods, particularly in industrialized nations, has further increased concern about wastes associated with eating (Munro 1995), since this waste increases the volume of the organic waste stream.

As concern about food waste intensifies (Smil 2003), studies that quantify or estimate food waste have emerged

In 1997, Kantor et al. published a quantitative estimate of food waste across the entire U.S. food system. The study revealed that one-quarter of food produced in the U.S. (96 billion pounds) is wasted yearly.

The analysis reported here is a case study of food waste of one community food system in the U.S. It examined and quantified food waste of a whole food system at a local level.

Food waste occurs during the food system stages of production, processing, distribution, acquisition, preparation, and consumption (Sobal 1999, 2004). Production wastes occur from natural disasters, insect or predator destruction (Kantor et al. 1997), government programs that encourage farmers to overproduce certain foods (Kling 1943; Poppendieck 1986), failure of harvesters to retrieve all food in a field (United States Department of Agriculture 1997a, b), selective harvesting by farmers (Kling 1943), or failure to harvest at all owing to low market prices or poor yields (United States Department of Agriculture 1997a, b). Food waste at the farm level also occurs during storage from spoilage and pest destruction (Kantor et al. 1997). Inefficient processing methods that remove edible as well as inedible portions of food (Kantor et al. 1997) and spillage contribute to food processing wastes (Kling 1943). In Western nations, much processing waste is comprised of what consumers in these countries consider to be inedible portions of food—peels, bones, blood, skins, and eyes— and ‘‘substandard’’ items (edible but blemished or small products). Distribution food waste incurs from improper food handling, packaging, and transportation (Kantor et al. 1997), spoilage (Kling 1943; Marquis 2001), failure of new food items to sell (Senauer et al. 1991), overstocking, and insufficient stock rotation (Kantor et al. 1997). Significant food service waste comes from plate scraps, which in some countries are not salvaged because of food safety considerations, and increased portion sizes

Consumer food waste occurs during food acquisition, preparation, and consumption.

Improper or prolonged storage are a key cause of consumer food waste. During preparation, consumers may remove inedible or blemished portions of foods as well as edible portions such as skins to obtain desired sensory or nutritional qualities. Leftover foods may be fed to pets, decreasing the amount of discarded food but also decreasing availability of foods for humans (Wenlock et al. 1980). The availability of cheap food, particularly in industrialized nations, encourages overbuying and hoarding behaviors that result in waste.

Significant energy losses occur when food is discarded, including the energy used to produce and distribute the food, to process the wasted food, as well as the energy captured in the food itself. Wasted food threatens environmental and community health through destruction of the biophysical environment, air pollution from decaying food, water pollution from runoff or leaching, and rapidly growing landfills. Contrary to popular belief, Rathje and others (1975, 1991) have shown that organic wastes do not decay or evaporate in landfills, owing to the anaerobic environment in which the waste is buried. From an ecological standpoint, minimizing food waste promotes environmental sustainability by conserving energy resources, reducing environmental costs of burning fossil fuels, protecting microhabitats, and preserving water and air quality. From a nutritional standpoint, reducing food waste increases the availability of nutrients to individuals, improving community health (American Dietetic Association 2001) and community food security.

This food waste analysis was conducted for one U.S. County (population 97,000) in Upstate New York State. This county provided a case study of a whole food system that contained an agricultural base (447 farms that occupied one-third of the county’s land area) plus several light industries, as well as a small centrally located city (population 29,000), a university of approximately 19,000 students, and a smaller college of about 5,900 students.

Only within-county farm waste was included because, as with any community embedded in the global food system, it was impossible to identify all of the farms across the state, nation, and world that supplied at least some food to the county.

The largest food waste in the producer subsystem was from grains and milk. This can be attributed to the high volume of these foods produced in the county. Milk is also perishable and freshness is highly valued, which leads to greater waste than among more durable commodities.

Table 1 Production food waste Commodity Planted Harvested Wasted Yield/acre Generated

Whether unharvested crops are left in the fields or later picked and discarded has different impacts on the environment. Food left in the field has a less negative environmental impact than food transported to a landfill because the energy for transporting the unharvested goods is conserved and the decaying crops add nutrients back into the soil. Producers interviewed for this study stated that they typically left unharvested foods in the field to be recycled into the soil. Thus, although the unharvested foods from the producer subsystem were classified as food waste since they were unavailable for human consumption, almost none of the 2,000 tons of unharvested foods from county farms entered the landfill. The only exception was milk, which was not used as fertilizer or animal feed in this county and thus was discarded, sending 99 tons into the waste stream annually.

Much of the waste from processors was also recycled into the soil, either as fertilizer or compost. All four wineries returned some processing wastes to the soil, diverting 5,000 pounds of solid waste and 7,300 gallons of liquid waste from the waste stream. Two bakeries (Bakery 1, Bakery 4) gave away the majority of their waste for animal feed, diverting over 18 tons (36,270 pounds) from the landfill. Four bakeries (Bakeries 1-4) also distributed dayold products to their employees or to local food pantries and soup kitchens, removing over 89.5 tons (179,058 pounds) from the waste stream.

Table 2 Processing food waste Processor Generated waste/year Recovered waste/yeara

Significant food waste was generated from fast food restaurants, full service restaurants, and hotels with restaurants. These sources were the highest because restaurants must discard not only the wastes from meal preparation but also plate waste not eaten by consumers. Substantial waste was generated by supermarkets, since quality standards and consumer demands for fresh produce, dairy, and bakery items result in many edible but imperfect foods being discarded. However, supermarkets were extensively involved with local food distribution programs. All but one of the supermarkets gave out-of-date food items to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Meat waste from two supermarkets was given to rendering companies located outside of the county.

Table 3 Distribution food waste Distributor Number in county

Consumption An estimated 6,146 tons of food waste was generated at the consumer level (Table 4), more than any other stage in the county food system. In the county, composting awareness was high

Cooperative Extension estimates suggested that about 10% of the 34,500 county households (3,446 households) composted

Table 4 Consumption food waste Unit Waste loss factor

Over 8.8 billion kilocalories were lost through food waste each year in the county. which means that these energy losses are enough to feed all of the county’s 96,659 residents for 45 days,

This investigation was a case study of food waste across the whole spectrum of a community food system. It showed that a considerable amount of food waste occurred at the consumer stage of the system and to a lesser extent at food production, processing, and distribution stages. In this community food system, most food waste was sent to the landfill (72%), although a portion was composted (25%) and some was diverted to emergency food programs (3%).

Policy changes at the corporate level could include incentives for food service companies, stores, or institutions to donate leftover foods to emergency food organizations, such as bonuses for food service managers or reimbursement for the cost of the food. In the United States, vendors who choose to donate unused foods are protected from liability in foodborne illness cases by the Good Samaritan Law mandatory composting within communities.

In both businesses and households, it is possible that significant savings in money and energy could occur, since less solid waste would be hauled to landfills.

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