Providing Safe, Nutritious Food

How We Lose Food (And What People Are Doing About It)

You’ve probably seen alarming stories about food waste a lot lately — from talk of waste reaching “crisis point” in the UK, to reports of a staggering 150,000 tons of food being thrown in the trash every day in the U.S.. And, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, a third of all food produced globally is lost somewhere along the way to our dinner table.

It’s an important issue. We’ve all seen the articles, we’ve all felt the guilt, and we’ve all vowed to do better.

But — despite what you might have heard — curbing food loss isn’t just about eating more leftovers and keeping tabs on food expiration dates. There are (unfortunately) many more ways we lose food, starting way back when it’s only a seed. But (fortunately), there are also many ways to address the problem.

A Journey Along the Path of Food Loss

Let’s start by taking a quick look at how food can get lost.

Whoa… So Where Do We Even Start with Tackling That?

Want to do your bit, but don’t know how? Don’t panic! We found some smart (and interesting) folks around the internet who are talking about food loss. Check them out to learn more.
  • Feedback
    Feedback is a London-based organization which campaigns on food waste. It’s also home to the Gleaning Network — a group that is coordinating a number of gleaning projects across the EU (activities currently take place in UK, Belgium, Greece, France and Spain).

    Gleaning is a practice where community groups make an agreement with farmers in their local area: Once the farmer has harvested the crop, the teams can go in and harvest by hand to collect the produce that got missed. (We’re talking about perfectly edible produce here, by the way).

    The gleaning groups then distribute the crops to local foodbanks or families in need. The Spanish branch of the Gleaning Network even turns their recovered produce into jams, juices, and other prepared foods, which are sold in local shops.

  • Lovin’ Spoonfuls
    Based in Boston, USA, Lovin’ Spoonfuls feeds more than 35,000 hungry mouths per week. How? By visiting shops, wholesalers, farms, and farmers markets, they rescue food that would otherwise be tossed in the trash. Food items that fit the bill include “slightly bruised produce, dairy nearing its sell-by date, or perfectly good food products that are determined to be excess”.

    Then, Lovin’ Spoonfuls links up with community organizations — about 150 of them — who are responsible for distributing the produce to people in need in various local areas.

  • Foodtank
    Want to keep up with great ideas for keeping the world fed? Be sure to bookmark Foodtank. In their own words: “Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem — and it starts with you and me. We’re building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters.”

    With a dedicated news section on food waste, Foodtank discusses all the latest on food loss and other food security issues, from new technologies to news on grants awarded to points of view from thinkers with great solutions.

  • TalkPlant
    Run by UK-based Dr Rupesh Paudyal, TalkPlant is first and foremost a science blog — but it often touches on the themes of food production and modern agriculture.

    Take this post on food waste, for instance. Dr Paudyal outlines some handy apps that help to avoid food loss, including an app that lets you know when a restaurant is about to throw out uneaten food at closing time. Another puts food charities in contact with supermarkets that have food which is about to perish.

  • Unearthed
    Journalist Tamar Haspel writes the “Unearthed” column for The Washington Post, where she discusses a number of food science-related issues, including food waste. In her article, “We think fresh is best. But to fight food waste, we need to think again”, she explains how frozen food can help avoid food waste.

    One the one hand, we can choose frozen food at home when we’re not sure when we’ll actually want to eat something. Some vegetables — like peas and corn — are well-suited to the freezing process. And since they’re frozen, you can just use the quantity you need, whenever you need it. Simple!

    On the other hand, it’s not just about our own kitchens – frozen food can actually reduce loss within the supply chain too. Growers coordinate with the processing plants, so that the produce goes straight to the factory as soon as it’s ready — leaving little room for spoilage on the road.

We’re All in This Together

With a world population expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050, it’s more important than ever that we reduce loss to help feed everyone. And, from farm to table, it’s clear everyone who is involved with the food supply chain can — and should — play their part in avoiding food loss.

Anyway, all this talk of food has got us hungry. What’s for dinner?!