Editor’s Note: March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition information and education campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year, the nationwide coalition is urging people to “Go Further With Food” – and to focus on what we all can do to #EndFoodWaste. In California, March 5-9 is the state’s inaugural Food Waste Prevention Week. Learn more below…and please consider joining the effort.
Food Waste is an Enormous (and Costly) Problem
Nearly 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted. This translates to an economic loss of $218B. This includes a big cost for many families. The National Resources Defense Council estimates that the average family of four throws out nearly 1,000 pounds of food each year, wasting roughly $1,500. Consumers as a group waste more food than farms, grocery stores or restaurants.
Reducing the amount of food we waste could not only help our wallets, but could also help alleviate hunger. A 2014 USDA report estimated that a staggering 1,249 calories per person per day in the United States are wasted—more than enough to feed the 1 in 8 Californians (4.8M+ residents) currently experiencing hunger and food insecurity.
Food waste also hurts our environment. According to Cal Recycle, California residents toss nearly 6M tons of food waste each year. Food waste squanders precious resources: land, water, energy, fertilizer and the human resources that go into food production, processing, distribution and waste management.
About 18% of all the material that ends up in California’s landfills is food waste. When food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane gas – a climate pollutant that is 80 times more potent than CO2.
We all know that food waste is an enormous and costly problem. But there are solutions.
Leveraging Nutrition Education to Reduce Food Waste
What sparked this new food waste prevention campaign? In February 2017, the Public Health Alliance of Southern California and UC ANR’s Nutrition Policy Institute convened a number of the state’s agencies tasked with delivering nutrition education. The goal? To discuss the impacts of food waste and develop strategies to tackle the problem, leading to this year’s Food Waste Prevention Week (March 5-9).
Planning partners include the Public Health Alliance of Southern California; Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources; Governor Brown’s Office, State of California; the California Department of Public Health; Cal Recycle; UC Cal Fresh; the California Dietetic Association; the Dairy Council of California; the Public Health Institute; Berkeley Media Studies Group; and the National Resources Defense Council.
Wendi Gosliner, a researcher with UC ANR’s Nutrition Policy Institute, said:
“This effort has highlighted California’s innovative leadership in solving complex social challenges. We could not be more thrilled that what began as an opportunity to integrate messaging across California’s nutrition education programs has evolved into a unique collaboration across multiple sectors, including public health, education, agriculture, environment, academia and government.
We are grateful to have the support of the Governor, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and so many others promoting shared messaging during Food Waste Prevention Week.
We aim to energize individuals, communities, businesses, municipalities, policy makers and all others to consider the human, financial, and environmental impacts of wasting 40% of the food we produce, and to think of new ways to be part of the solution. Ensuring the food we produce nourishes people and doesn’t fill landfills will improve human, environmental, and economic health.”
California’s Inaugural Food Waste Prevention Week
The official launch is Monday March 5th. The week is packed with opportunities to share what you’re doing…and to learn from others. On Tuesday March 6th, we’ll try to find food waste and document it on social media (I’ve included links to hashtags and Twitter accounts below). If you have ideas about how to prevent food waste at home, please share those on Wednesday, March 7th. On Thursday March 8th, you’re invited to share ideas for preventing food waste in communities and in the workplace. And on Friday, we’ll brainstorm ways in which we can keep the momentum going.
What Can I Do?
There is a role for everyone in food waste reduction. Changing our Individual behavior can have a large impact.
Here are some things to try:
- Planning meals, sticking to a shopping list, freezing food and using up leftovers are wonderful ways to become a Food Waste Reduction Hero. Not sure where to start? Visit the USDA Choose My Plate website for meal planning tools, shopping lists, healthy and budget-friendly recipes and more.
- Paying attention to why you waste food may also highlight other changes that could help you waste less, like buying smaller portions of food in the store or ordering smaller portions in restaurants.
Take the Challenge (And Share What You’re Doing)
Help us share ideas and best practices by participating in the social media campaign. Simply take a few photos (drawings and videos are also great) that show how food waste happens in your home, workplace or community and what actions/changes you’re marking to reduce food waste. Submissions can include before and after pictures. Do you eat imperfect or ugly produce? Great! Are you eating reasonable portion sizes? Terrific! Have you frozen extra food to save it for a later date? Yay! Are you sharing excess food or produce with neighbors or a community organization? Awesome! Show us what you’re doing! Be creative!
Share your submissions via social media platforms using the hashtags #SavetheFoodCA, #GoFurtherWithFood and #FeedPeopleNotLandfills. Tag @SaveTheFood, @UCNPI, @UCANR and other participating agencies on social accounts such as Twitter and Instagram. You can also email photos, videos and drawings to SaveTheFoodCA@gmail.com. Please include your location…it’s a big state!
Have a great week!