The NRDC website posted an article noting that the U.S.wastes 40% of the food grown in the country. Given that we are using precious resources (80% of freshwater is used for growing food) and struggling to make sure all are fed, that’s a lot of waste. In fact, that’s a D grade if we look at the effectiveness of our food system. If humans are supposed to be the most intelligent creatures on earth, then why haven’t we figured out an effective food system like nature, where 100% of the food sources are used by some species or another?
What’s the value of that food? At least $165 billion a year–all going to landfills where it not only isn’t being put to its highest use, but as it rots it also contributes significantly to methane emissions. Given that 1 in 6 American are food insecure, it is time to get more food to people who need it rather than it ending in landfills where more problems are caused. We could feed more than 25 million American per year with that amount of food.
What has caused this waste? Lack of human creativity and the understanding of how nature functions. The more we can create systems that imitate nature, the better able we are to create a food system that feeds many effectively rather than just focusing on the simple financial bottom line. That doesn’t mean that a sustainable food system isn’t profitable. In fact, in can be highly profitable. But government subsidies for commodities and certain scales of operation or certain quality of food all conspire to make for a food system that sees “imperfect food” as waste that needs to be disposed of at landfills rather than considering the best and highest use for any food at any stage of its life. If it’s not fit for human consumption, for whom is it fit? If it’s an aesthetic issue, can a curvy carrot be turned into a baby carrot? What can the peelings of those carrots be used for? Carrot puree?
The NRDC commissioned a paper–“Wasted:How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill” to look at the options to increase profitability of the food supply chain while meeting the need for food security.
So how can you contribute to a more effective food system and help America achieve a better than average grade when it comes to food? Ultimately the consumer has a great deal of power within the food system. Making choices about buying directly from the food sources (the farmer or rancher) is a great start. Visit Our Community Map to see which Holistic Management producers are near you.
If you can’t get what you need directly from the farm or ranch, shop at a local grocery store that offers a good selection of local food. If you shop with a shopping list you are less likely to impulse buy and you are more likely to buy food that supports your values. Buying the amount you want in bulk will also reduce food waste.
Also, if you do end up with food that is no longer fit for human consumption, for whom is it fit? The dog? The chicken? The worms? The micro-organisms? Make a game of how to keep your food out of the landfill (legally). If you make it a family project with the group reward of a dinner out or a vacation, it can be an opportunity to bring the family together while saving money and doing good for the planet. See my home food system tips here.
If you want to learn more how good agricultural practices can also heal the planet, visit The Regenerative Solution Page.
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