The food conversation continues to evolve. This fact was evident during the recent Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Global Nutrition Symposium held in Washington, DC. This meeting of international minds addressed a multitude of hot topics, including the progress being made in global food and nutrition security. One topic that hit home for me was the importance of reducing food waste.

Global Food Waste

Did you realize that each year, Americans throw away 80 billion pounds of food most of which is not recovered? Per person, this equates to over 250 pounds of food wasted per year. Another sad fact is that 25-40% of food grown, processed and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed.

These statistics appear disheartening, but do not despair. At the symposium, C.D. Glin, Associate Director, Africa Region at The Rockefeller Foundation passionately stated that “food waste issues must be tackled at…the individual awareness level…” Each of us can make a difference and help reduce the amount of food wasted.

Frequently, as a registered dietitian, I am asked,”where do I start?” When I talk with people about making such lifestyle changes, I rely on science. I say, you can start at home. Look at what you buy and how you cook. Here are some practical tips we can share with others as thought leaders as well as make sure we are applying in our own lives to start chipping away at food waste.

  1. Buy it with thought. How many times have you gone shopping and bought items you already have at home? Before you head to the grocery store, check your refrigerator and cupboards to see what you already have on hand. Create your grocery list based only on what you need for your weekly meals.
  2. Cook it with care. We are in a world of multi-tasking. Often we are distracted by conversations or phone calls. While cooking, stay focused or be aware of what you are doing to prevent      burning/overcooking food, which can lead to food waste.
  3. Serve just enough. Often, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Try taking smaller portions of food. You can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry. Watching portion sizes not only helps manage food waste, it also helps manage your waistline. Eating out? Consider splitting a meal with a friend or ask for to-go containers so you can enjoy leftovers at home. Here are some other easy tips to start eating smaller portions and ideas to overcoming some common stumbling blocks.
  4.  Save what will keep. Wrap and freeze the extras. Doing so will save you time on other evenings when you are short on time and will also prevent tossing away spoiled leftovers. To prevent perishable foods like milk, eggs and frozen foods from spoiling, check that your refrigerator and freezer are at appropriate temperatures. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or below and the freezer at 0 °F (-17.7 ºC) or below. Learn more safe food handling tips here.
  5. Clean out of the fridge. Soup or salad anyone? Often we peek in our fridge and find a little bit of this and that. Get creative and use these odds and ends to make your own unique version of soup or salad.
  6. Donate what you will not use. Bought too much? Don’t let it expire and go to waste. Consider donating extras to your local food bank or pantry. Be sure to check that these items are not past their “use by” dates.

Food waste is a global challenge. I believe, as individuals, we have the power to make a huge impact to reduce food waste and, as thought leaders, we have the power to inspire others to reduce food waste, too. And that change starts at home.

Blog originally posted on July 10, 2015 by The Chicago Council at http://bit.ly/1L2u2e9.