For sustainable food advocates, the quest to prevent food waste in America is one of the most important causes of our time. The average diet in the U.S. requires enormous investments of land, energy and water, but 40% of our food never gets eaten – in fact, the national bill for wasted food totals $165 billion every year. Every bite we throw out is a waste of money and a waste of natural resources, and what do we get? Landfills brimming with uneaten produce, spoiled leftovers and the rest of that Caesar salad you didn’t feel like taking home after last night’s dinner out. That’s a definite moral failing when one out of every six Americans doesn’t have steady, reliable access to food.
Food waste isn’t just a problem in America, though. Worldwide, about a third of the food intended for human consumption is wasted – that adds up to 1.3 billion metric tons every year. The amount of food that gets thrown out in rich nations alone is almost more than the total produced throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Again, even if we look past the wasted energy that goes into planting those crops, watering them and transporting them to markets, this is food that could make a difference for the almost 900 million people who go hungry around the world every year.
Fortunately, true global problems sometimes lead to a real global response, and the list of nations that have adopted unique and interesting strategies to prevent food waste is growing every year. Below, we’ll tell you about five novel programs that are helping to increase sustainable food awareness around the world. These solutions range from a simple technology that will keep food fresh in rural Africa to Danish-based initiatives that keep shoppers informed and engaged.
5 International Programs to Prevent Food Waste
1. Saving “Ugly” Fruit in Britain. It’s easy for shoppers to assume that all apples naturally grow to be shiny and flawless, but only the most beautiful Braeburns and Granny Smiths ever make it to market. Sometimes perfectly edible produce just isn’t good-looking enough for fruit stands, and these funky-looking items normally end up in the garbage.
Feeding the 5000 is a British-based campaign that has responded to this problem with “The Gleaning Network UK,” an initiative for collecting fresh fruits and vegetables that have no commercial use. Farmers with an overabundance of unmarketable produce allow volunteer gleaners to collect food from their farms, and the fresh crops are then forwarded to charities that feed malnourished Britons.
2. Feeding Needy Australians. SecondBite, an Australian program that has helped to redistribute over 8,000 tons of food, works with local farmers to feed homeless people, at-risk kids, struggling families and other hungry community members. But they don’t just work with local farms. Caterers, grocers, supermarkets and wholesalers are also helping to prevent food waste by donating their extras to SecondBite. So far, they’ve been able to leverage these donations into over 15 million meals for the needy.
3. A Food Storage Solution for Burkina Faso. In West and Central Africa, the cowpea is a staple crop, but farmers suffer major losses when weevils invade the storage areas. Researchers at Purdue University, led by entomology professor Larry Murdock, have come up with a cheap, simple system to keep food fresh on farms in Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso and surrounding nations: airtight bags that shut the insects off from the resources they need to multiply and thrive. The strategy can save farmers $25 to $50 per bag of grain, a great blessing in areas where almost half the population survives on less than $1 a day.
4. Ignoring Expiration Dates in Japan. The government of Japan is currently experimenting with a rules change for “best-before” dates in grocery stores. Under the new plan, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers will have more time to ship and sell products with upcoming expiration dates. It’s too early to tell whether Japanese consumers will accept these new standards, but sustainable food proponents are hoping the program will reduce the amount of food that Japanese corporations throw out every year (up to 4 million tons by some estimates).
5. Engaging Danish Shoppers. Five years ago, Selina Juul started a Facebook group called “Stop Spild Af Mad” (or Stop Wasting Food, in English) to help prevent food waste in Denmark. Today, her organization collaborates with the UN to help teach consumers about sustainable food practices.
“Stop Wasting Food” gives shoppers the information and encouragement they need to throw out as little food as possible, and a 2013 survey shows that half of all Danes are responding to the program. In some European countries, asking for “to-go” containers after a meal out is frowned upon, but Juul’s program has made Danes increasingly likely to opt for a doggy bag. “Stop Wasting Food” has even convinced Danish supermarket chains to eliminate quantity-based coupons (like “buy one, get one free”).
We’re totally on board with any plans to prevent food waste around the world. In fact, that’s the reason we do what we do. BerryBreeze™ is a simple, battery-operated device that helps keep food fresh in your own home. Bacteria, mold and other microbes are neutralized in your refrigerator, and that means your fruits, veggies and meats will enjoy a longer shelf life. You’ll save money, sure, but it feels great to know that you’re helping to conserve energy and resources, too. Remember, the global fight against food waste begins right in your refrigerator, and BerryBreeze™ can help put your conscience at ease. Let us help you turn your fridge into a sustainable food haven.