Ten Surprising Causes of Food Waste and How to Fix Them

By guest author: Erin Meyer

(story originally posted on Land & Ladle on Medium)

Organic waste is the second largest component of our landfills in North America, which contributes to methane emissions and thus, climate change. 30–40% of the American food supply is wasted. This equates to more than 20 pounds of food per person each month. Food waste is complex and there are many causes.

Here are ten potentially suprising causes and how to fix them:

1.) Cause: You are moving so you toss all of your food instead of having to move it with you.

· Solutions: Find out if “Move For Hunger” works in your area. “Move For Hunger” teams up with relocation services around the country to have them pick up unwanted, non-perishable food from people that are moving and delivers it to local food banks.

· When the move gets closer, be more mindful in your shopping and only buy what you will need and use.

· Friends helping you move? Repay them by feeding them.

· Take what you can with you. It beats having to fully restock an empty kitchen.

2.) Cause: You peel your carrots and other fruits and veggies and then trash the scraps.

· Solutions: Eat them! The peels can be nutritious. Take apple peels for instance. They contain quercetin, a flavonoid, which promotes heart health, helps with allergies and reduces inflammation.

· Are you peeling to avoid pesticides? Buy organic or grow your own produce.

· Compost them if all else fails. New to composting and not sure where to begin? Check out these helpful infographics:

Infographic: How to Compost

How to Compost in your Apartment

· Still reluctant to begin your own compost pile? Do some research to find out if your city offers Curbside Composting.

3.) Cause: You cook too much food as a way to show your love to your family. A recent study out of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and the Getulio Vargas Foundation identified this recently as a major cause of food waste.

· Solutions: Meal planning and being truly mindful when preparing food can decrease the amount of waste.

· Save and actually eat the leftovers. Don’t forget them in the back of the fridge.

· Invest in some Tupperware to keep the leftovers fresh longer.

4.) Cause: You are eating your apples wrong leaving too much edible food on the core. Some estimates predict that biting into and eating around the core can leave behind 30% of edible waste.

· Solutions: Cut the apple into slices. Often times the seeds will just fall away and you can eat the entire thing after tossing the stem.

· Start from the bottom blossom on the apple instead of the sides after removing the stem and work your way down. Again the seeds should fall out.

5.) Cause: You don’t know what to do with the “odds and ends” of produce when preparing dishes.

· Solutions: The Kitchn.com suggests repurposing the nubs, cobs, ends and tops of cut produce into a broth bag that can be used as flavor boosters for soups, stews, stocks and sauces. Place the unused bits in a freezer bag or container and freeze them for later use in your next stock.

· Again, if all else fails, compost it!

6.) Cause: Your herb garden flourished or you bought way too much parsley at the store.

· Solutions: Preserve the herbs by chopping them up and placing them in an ice tray with some olive oil. Use them later in sauces and stews.

· Extend the herbs shelf life by placing the herbs in a plastic bag along with a couple of tablespoons of water. Tie the bag in a loose knot and refrigerate.

7.) Cause: You overplanted your vegetable garden and you have more produce than you can eat.

· Solutions: Donate it to your local food bank.

· Host a dinner party and share the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor.

· Pickle (preserve) that extra produce.

8.) Cause: Grapes were on sale so you purchased them in bulk only to later realize that you cannot consume them all.

· Solutions: Only buy what you need and can use. What may look like a great deal, might end up being wasted money due to the wasted food you cannot consume.

· Freeze the extras. Have you ever tried frozen grapes? They are delicious.

9.) Cause: You don’t know how to store produce and other foods to maintain and optimize freshness so it goes bad quickly.

· Solutions: Educate yourself. Do some research about the best way to store different foods.

· Utilize technology. Check out this awesome gadget working to promote produce freshness.

10.) Cause: You go food shopping and forget that you already have perfectly good strawberries in the fridge.

· Solutions: Avoid this trap in the first place by making a shopping list beforehand and sticking to it.

· Repurpose the food. Use up those bananas to make banana bread. Make croutons with the left over stale bread.

It can be boiled down to this: Think. Eat. Save. Think about if you really need to splurge because grapes are on sale. Think about how much food you need to serve your dinner guests. Eat your leftovers. Offer your excess food to others to eat. Save what you can by canning, freezing or repurposing for example.

Such a complex issue like food waste with many causes will require everyone doing their part. You can be part of the solution.

Want to be an even greater part of the solution? Learn more here and please spread the word and help educate others by clicking the heart and sharing away!

About the author:  Erin Meyer is currently the CropMobster Merced Coordinator, working at the University of California, Merced. She is passionate about reducing food waste and hunger. She recently completed her Master’s of Science degree in Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems after finishing two degrees in Integrative Biology and Nutrition. Her expertise gives her deep insight into ways to work with the community to reduce some of the great issues impacting the food system. Besides working with CropMobster Merced County, she is helping reduce food waste at the Merced County Food Bank. In her spare time, she likes to run and she enjoys blogging about food waste and sustainability. Read more of her work here and send her an email at emeyer09[@]gmail.com if you are interested in and want help with reducing your personal or organization’s food waste. 

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