This weekend I came home with 9 zucchini the size of my forearm, 4 boxes of grape tomatoes, 10 yellow tomatoes, 36 yellow tomatoes, and 12 bell peppers. Not even kidding, it cost me only $10.
How did I get it so cheap? Because, it would have been thrown away other wise. This produce came from a local program that rescues fresh produce from being taken to a landfill and redistributes it to the community. Every weekend they bring in a semi-truck full of food that is “too ripe” to make it to the grocery store. They are part of the solution to the growing epidemic of food waste.
Around the world an estimated 1.6 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. Considering the resources needed to produce food (water, land, energy, etc), that is an enormous carbon footprint we are leaving for not viable reason. There are some wonderfully terrifying statistics here about the environmental and economic effects of food waste. For those interested, a scholarly article with fascinating insight on the issue can be found here.
Food is lost anywhere from it’s production to the point where it reaches household consumption. It is true that some food waste is inevitable, but much of it is lost for baseless reasons. Fruits and vegetables tend to suffer the highest rate of food wastage. Grocery stores require that the produce on their shelves are fresh upon arrival stay that way for 10-11 days. This means produce that is considered “too ripe” when it arrives at the store, even though it may be fresh for another few weeks, will be discarded. Another issue is the standards set for the appearance of the produce. If the produce is not considered to be the right size, shape, texture, or color it will also be discarded. The value of the appearance of the produce is grossly overemphasized, leading to unnecessary wastage of perfectly nutritious food.
I am fortunate enough to be able to participate in a program that combats this epidemic. I urge you to search for similar programs in your own community. Take the steps toward reducing your environmental impact by eating “ugly” food, composting what you can’t eat, and buying locally.