Mom is Right, Wasting Food is Bad for People and the Environment

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You know when you don't want to finish that broccoli sitting on your dinner plate, or you don't want to finish your food. So your mom says, "don't waste your food; there are many people who aren’t  as lucky as us and have nothing to eat' - Well, your mom is right. 

Food waste is bad, not only for people but also for the environment; food waste is a real problem many developed countries face today. 

According to the United Nations (U.N.), an estimated 1/3 of all food produced - the equivalent to 1.3 billion tons worth around $1 trillion – is wasted and ends up rotting in people's bins or thrown away supermarkets and restaurants or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices. 

It is sad to think 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year, yet so many people around the world are still starving. Growing food requires investments of manual labor, water, land, energy, and fuel. Therefore, when food is wasted, not only are we wasting food but also resources. 

Because of this, The United Nations Sustainable Goal #12, "Responsible Consumption and Production", focuses on targeting food waste, and it aims to reduce food waste by half by 2030. 


Food Waste or Food Loss?

There are two definitions for general food waste: food loss and food waste. Food loss is when any edible food goes uneaten at any stage. This includes food that's uneaten in homes and stores, food lost in crops left in the field, food that spoils during transportation, and all other food that doesn't make it to a store.

On the other hand, food waste is a specific kind of food loss. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) defines food waste as "food discarded by retailers due to color or appearance or a plate of food wasted by consumers." That means that the lonely broccoli you left on your plate is food waste. 

Food Waste at Restaurants 

According to experts, restaurants in the United States alone generate an estimated 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste each year. Additionally, schools, hotels and hospitals generate an additional 7 to 11 billion pounds per year. This is often due to:

  • Preparing too much food
  • Improper ingredient storage
  • Discarding certain cuts or trimmings 

All-you-can-eat buffets and fast-food restaurants are particularly wasteful since none of their extra food can legally be reused or donated due to health code restrictions. However, these health code restrictions have been created to protect consumers from getting sick from eating spoiled food. 

Food Waste at Home 

Households are responsible for the largest portion of all food waste. ReFED, a nonprofit dedicated to ending food loss and waste across the U.S. food system estimates that U.S. households waste 76 billion pounds of food per year. The main reason? Food Spoilage — About two-thirds of food waste at home is due to food not being used before it goes bad. Yes! We have all seen that poor tomato rotting at the bottom of the fridge drawers. Food spoilage at home happens primarily due to storage; you can't eat what you can't see. 

What to Do with Your Food Waste

There are two ways you can dispose of food waste in your home: 

  • Composting at home
  • Making sure you eat everything, even leftovers. 

Composting at Home

Composting is a great way to reduce your family's waste! It can also be a great way to save money and keep your plants happy. Composting involved gathering food scraps and reusing them to enrich your plants' soil. Of course, plants have to eat too! but they get their nutrients from the soil, so basically, it is like feeding your plants the food you don't eat. 

Things you can compost

  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • eggshells
  • coffee grinds
  • grass clippings
  • leaves, twigs and branches
  • newspaper
  • coffee filters

Things you can't compost (definitely don't use these) 

  • meat
  • fat
  • bones
  • cheese
  • milk
  • oils
  • pet poop
  • dead plants or flowers

Ask your parents today to get started on composting. You will need a composting kit. In Canada, you might be able to get everything you need from your city/town. 



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Thinking Cap On

We can protect our planet by saving food! You can do it too! To get started, keep a food log. Write down how much food is wasted in your home every day for one week. Then, spot what the things that aren't getting eaten are. Is it because you don't like them? Speak with your parents to find eating patterns and decide what not to include in the weekly food shopping bag. 

Using your Food Diary and any notes you took, take a look at some simple actions that you can take to save your food from the bin next week. Can you re-make something else with it? For example, you can use bread crusts to make breadsticks for another meal. If you can't re-purpose it, can you compost it? 


Become a food saver! Don't let anything go to waste.