by Kat Larrowe
We’ve heard it before: clear your plates, don’t let food go to waste, don’t shop on an empty stomach. But what is the true impact of wasting food? The answer is that there are real consequences that affect all of us. But thankfully, there are also solutions – including easy ways we can help.
Consider this: Each time food is thrown in the trash, precious resources are also wasted. For example, throwing away just one egg wastes 52 gallons of water, not to mention the labor, transportation, money (the list goes on) that also goes into producing that one egg.
Now, think about the ingredients and amount of food required to make an entire meal. Portion sizes are large and there are often leftovers. How many times have you forgotten about a leftover meal, only to find it in the fridge three weeks later and tossed it out? I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. But, it’s not too late to make small changes to help eliminate food waste in your home, workplace, and overall life!
SIMPLE CHANGES, BIG EFFECTS
There are endless resources available to guide you along a food waste-less journey. But here are easy steps you can take today:
- Keep in mind food is often fresh and delicious beyond the expiration date.
- Look, smell, or taste before you toss it out. Our bodies know if it’s safe to eat.
- Eat leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day.
- Shop with a plan when you’re at the grocery store.
FIGHTING FOOD WASTE
In recent years, legislation specifically related to reduce food waste has been passed. France banned food waste across the entire country. In Austin, TX, restaurants and prepared food establishments are required to donate or compost food waste. And, California will soon mandate that all edible, but unsellable food products from all food generators (retailers, manufacturers, restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc.) cannot be thrown away or composted. That means all edible food must be donated or provided for human consumption.
Food Banks were the original pioneers of food recovery and have some of the largest operations to diverting food across the country. At Alameda County Community Food Bank, we work every day to reduce food waste. We’ve developed partnerships with farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to collect wholesome food that would otherwise be wasted. As a member of our Food Recovery team, I connect with those partners throughout the county to source donations through our partner agencies.
The result? More than 18 million pounds of edible, nutritious food recovered to provide 15 million meals for Alameda County neighbors.
Over 50 percent of the donations include valuable and expensive items that are difficult to access, allowing our partner agencies to provide meat, dairy, and produce to supplement the food they receive from the Food Bank. That gives our clients the opportunity to build full meals, and even a sweet treat to celebrate special occasions.
FOOD WASTE AND HUNGER
At the end of the day, ACCFB is striving to end hunger in Alameda County. Even though food waste reduction is not the solution, it is important to ensure all resources are utilized as intended. Until our collective food system changes – until we, as consumers, change the demand – supply will not change.
Food waste is an issue that persists. While the Food Bank works to create a hunger-free community, our Food Recovery team continues to find partners and collect wholesome food products for our neighbors.
It’s all too easy to forget about the time and attention it takes to grow and manufacture the food we consume every day. But if just one egg adds up to 52 gallons of water flushed down the toilet, imagine what all food waste adds up to.
So, next time you clean out your fridge to find forgotten items, say no to that to-go box, or throw food away based solely on an expiration date, remember all the resources that have gone into making that food. Ask yourself, “Was there something I could have done to prevent the waste in the first place?”
About the author:
Kat Larrowe has been a member of the Alameda County Community Food Bank since 2016. As Food Recovery Program Manager, she facilitates and manages relationships between food donors and ACCFB member agencies to collect more than 4 million pounds of edible food per year, including developing and implementing program evaluations and testing new recovery models.