The produce aisle is unlike any other part of a grocery store. Vibrant produce sticking out at every turn while sprinklers shower fruits and vegetables with water to keep them hydrated. All of this time and effort is used to sell food, but some of that hard work will be for nothing.
But this subject is a lot more complex than meets the eye. It has many different parts that negatively impact our society.
Food waste is a major environmental issue. Creating food is a very large and complex process and a lot of different supplies and effort is used in order to put food into grocery stores. So, when food is thrown out a lot more is wasted than just the food itself. All the chemicals, energy, fertilizer, land and water that was used to create the product was also wasted when food is thrown out without being consumed.
“You take a hamburger, that came from a cow,” said Clean Plates at State employee Elizabeth Lytle. “You not only had to take the time and energy to kill that cow, but also the raising of that cow used a lot of food and water. People just need to understand that a lot of time and energy goes into making food.”
Another reason why wasting food negatively affects the environment is because of where it ends up, landfills.
According to thinkeatsave.org, food rotting in landfills accounts for 25 percent of the U.S.’s methane emissions. This methane gas negatively impacts our climate and is one of the main factors in global climate change. Since there is so much waste, an excessive amount of methane gas is being created and released into the atmosphere, increasing the temperature.
Being able to minimize the amount of waste thrown into landfills would decrease the amount methane being released which is better for the atmosphere.
But food waste is not just an environmental issue, it is also an economic issue. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately $161 billion of food is thrown out in the U.S. each year. That is around $2,000 per family. By not wasting food, people are able to save money, which is a huge reason for some individuals.
“I think about what realistically will be eaten in my house,” said Uncommon Goodies employee Olivia Perrine. “I definitely try to make sure I am not buying an excess amount of food when I go grocery shopping because I really don’t like wasting things, because not only is it wasting food it’s wasting money.”
There are many ways to help minimize the amount of food that is wasted. For example, strategically placing different items in your refrigerator can help foods last longer.
But the best way to help minimize the amount of food wasted is by making sure to only buy necessitates when at the grocery story.
The expression “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” applies to grocery shopping as well. While walking down the aisles something catches the eyes of shoppers and by the time they have bought much more than they intended too. This is the long run adds to more food and money being wasted.
“It may sound dumb, but I always recommend eating right before you go to the grocery store because then your less likely to buy things that are unnecessary,” said Perrine.
Another way to help minimize the amount of food you waste is by planning meals. Being able to know what is needed and how much of it will help cut down on the amount of food that is being wasted.
This method is used by the Williamston School District when preparing for lunch.
“The amount of food prepared each day is based upon prior history of food production reports,” said Food Service Director Lynna Hassenger. “We forecast the amount to prepare. We also take into consideration absenteeism for the day. Groups of students that may be off campus for the day, testing that is going on in the building and anything else that might impact meal counts.”
Williamston business Groovy Donuts uses a spreadsheet in order to keep track of how much food they make. And when it is later in the day, they offer special deals in order to try and sell all of their donuts. But sometimes they are left with extras at the end of the day, but they still do not go wasted.
“When we have extra donuts left we donate them,” said Groovy Donuts employee Elizabeth Williams. “Every donut we make is used.”
Using leftovers properly, like Groovy Donuts, is another way to make sure that food is not wasted. Whenever too much food is cooked or ordered, make sure to save it for another day. This will save money by not spending money on another meal and save food.
“Using leftovers is the second most common action to reduce food waste,” said food safety educator at Michigan State University, Kara Lynch. “Make sure you are using them in a timely manner though.”
Food waste is becoming a very serious issue both economically and environmentally according to the New York Times, but more and more people are coming to their senses, seeing that wasting food is wrong on many levels. And with businesses and people being more conscious about food waste, food might no longer go wasted.
“We always make sure that nothing is wasted because people will always need food,” said Williams. “We are just going to keep doing our part by making sure that nothing goes wasted.”