Information and tips for consumers to reduce food waste at home. Everyone can make changes that have an environmental, monetary, and social impact by learning simple habits.

picture of rotting fruits and vegetables

In America, about four food items are thrown away out of every 10 that are bought. A huge amount of resources goes into creating that food, and it takes its toll on our planet. Preventing food waste can solve several critical global issues we are facing.

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the various issues associated with food waste and why preventing food waste is important.

How Does Food Waste Affect Us?

The main categories of issues associated with food waste (as told to us in our Q&A with food waste specialist Alesha Hartley) are:

  1. Environmental
  2. Economic
  3. Societal

We’ll go into detail on each of these issues.

Food Waste is One of the Largest Causes of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The environmental impact of food waste is huge. Just think about how much water, fertilizer, and other forms of energy go into growing crops on one farm.

Now expand that amount to an entire state, an entire country, an entire planet.

food waste iceberg

Now take one-third of all that food and throw it in a pile that degrades over time and releases methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2.

That’s what’s happening right now. A large percentage of this occurs in the supply chain, but a substantial amount occurs at home.

According to Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is one of the top solutions for reducing carbon emissions. They say that food waste causes around 8 percent of global emissions.

 

8 percent of the global carbon emissions are because of food waste

 

Believer of climate change or not, the impact on our environment is huge.

Food Waste Costs How Much??

The economic cost of food waste is around $1 TRILLION per year (FAO). This number is a bit hard to comprehend, even if you’re Jeff Bezos.

 

the cost of food waste

 

In the time it took you to briefly read through that graphic, around $200,000 in food was wasted.

No one is benefiting from this issue, except maybe landfill owners.

Nobody Enjoys Food Waste

  • Growers don’t enjoy losing thousands of dollars of crops because they don’t meet quality standards.
  • Distributors don’t enjoy rejecting apples with marks on them.
  • Retail stores don’t feel good about paying for food, just to have it go moldy on the shelf.
  • None of us smile and feel good about throwing away food.

If you don’t think those small amounts of food you throw away amount to a lot, think again.

The average family of four in America throws out around $1,600 of produce per year.

 

the average American family throws out around $1600 of produce per year

 

We wouldn’t waste as much food if we saw a price tag on every piece of food we waste.

We’re Wasting Billions of Tons of Food and People are Still Hungry

The social impact of food waste is large when you consider the vast number of hungry people on our planet. It’s a large issue that over 820 million people are food insecure (UN).

This is enough people to fill one of the largest football stadiums, Cowboys Stadium, over 10,000 times.

hungry people globally can fill up Cowboys Stadium over 10,000 times

 

A large portion of the food we are producing is going to landfills and other methods low on the food recovery hierarchy.

 

food recovery hierarchy

 

So we are throwing away food at remarkable speeds, and we also have a huge number of hungry mouths to feed.

Does this seem ok? Hopefully not.

That’s why the best approaches focus on the redistribution of edible food to people in need. Kroger is a great example of this with its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste program.

So What Can You Do About It?

Informing yourself about food waste and realizing the importance of preventing it is best. After reading this blog post, it should be obvious that preventing food waste is an important cause.

It will take effort from all of us.

But we don’t want to leave you feeling helpless on this issue. Preventing food waste is straightforward!

Below are resources to help prevent food waste at home and in the supply chain.

Resources To Prevent Food Waste at Home

Resources For Preventing Food Loss in the Supply Chain

 

If you have perishing fruits and vegetables in your kitchen that you would normally throw out, try making smoothies, vegetable juices, and sorbets to reduce household food waste.

In the U.S., 40% of food is wasted, and much of this waste comes from households. Food waste in landfills contributes to methane emissions – a major climate change concern.

Want to be a part of the solution? The next time you have less-than-fresh fruits or vegetables, consider blending or juicing your produce before you send it to the trash or the compost.

Reduce Household Food Waste with Smoothies

Reduce food waste by creating smoothies

Well-made and tasty smoothies contain at least these three major components:

  • 1-1.5 cups of a liquid base,
  • 1-2 cups of fruits and/or vegetables,
  • a thickener

We recommend freezing the produce you plan on using in the smoothie to thicken the smoothie’s consistency.

Common liquid bases include water, pre-made juices (you can make your own to further reduce your household’s food waste!), or any kind of dairy or nut milk.

The bulk of the smoothie may come from leafy greens and/or frozen fruit.

Finally, the thickener might be 1 banana, ½ avocado, ½ cup frozen mango, ¼ cup ground oats, or ice cubes.

Blend and enjoy!

Reduce Household Food Waste with Vegetable Juices

Reduce food waste by creating vegetable juices

Making your own vegetable juices, or green juices, from ingredients you have on hand is another great way to reduce food waste! Juicing allows you to mix and match produce that you already have in your kitchen in order to create your own recipes for great tasting drinks.

To get you started, we recommend choosing one ingredient from each of the below categories, using produce that you already have in your home.

BaseCitrusLeafy VeggiesSweet IngredientFlavor
CucumberLemonSpinachAppleGinger
CeleryLimeKalePearTurmeric
CantaloupeOrangeRomaineCarrotMint
Honey Dew melonGrapefruitCollard GreensPineappleParsley

 

Remember, the goal is to use what you have in order to prevent food waste, not to plan a recipe and buy new ingredients. The ingredients listed above are only some examples and can be substituted with similar produce items.

Additionally, it is not necessary to create a juice using an ingredient from every aforementioned category; use what you have to create your own recipes or use the internet to search for recipes using the specific ingredients you do have.

Juice and enjoy!

Reduce Household Food Waste with Vegetable Juices

Have a sweet tooth? Sorbets are another good way to reduce food waste!

Use the following recipe to make your own fruit sorbets.

  • Heat 2 cups of sugar in 2 cups of water in a pot on the stove. Bring to a simmer and stir. Do not let this mixture boil.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, let the mixture cool.
  • Juice 2 cups of fruit. This will become your sorbet’s flavor.
  • Add the fruit juice to the cooled sugar and water mixture. Stir.
  • Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer.
  • Stir every 30 minutes for 2-3 hours, until you have a well-mixed, frozen sorbet product.

Serve and enjoy!

Show us what you made!

Share your waste-reducing smoothies, juices, and sorbets with us by tweeting us @OneThirdTeam.

If you have other food items you wish to donate, you can discover food donation programs in the U.S. that are helping to reduce food insecurity by diverting food waste to those in need.

Looking for more ways to reduce food waste at home?

We created the 30 Day Food Waste Challenge as a fun way to learn 30 new ways of reducing food waste in 30 days.

 

30 day food waste challenge

Feel free to start it at any time!

person holding grapes

To make things simple, fresh produce shelf life prediction tells you when individual fruits or vegetables will expire.

There are a few methods of doing so, but all help to prevent food loss and waste and improve freshness.

Why Would You Predict Fruit and Vegetable Shelf Life?

fresh produce shelf life prediction

Companies in the food supply chain ship huge amounts of fruits and vegetables from farm to fork.

It takes a large amount of energy, time, and money to grow fresh produce. Yet, one-third of all food is wasted. This number may even be higher for fruits and vegetables.

global food waste and loss per year is 1.3 billion tons

Food loss, which occurs in the supply chain, is caused by several factors that decrease the shelf life of fresh produce. You cannot assess per-item quality by measuring cold chain temperature and humidity alone.

Companies assess the quality of their produce when selling or buying it, but have no objective standard to easily make decisions.

Walmart plans to save $2 billion over five years by managing freshness.

Growers, distributors, and retailers can use shelf life prediction as that objective standard.

What is Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction?

Fresh produce shelf life prediction determines how long a certain fruit or vegetable will be safe to sell or eat.

This technology is important because shelf life in fresh produce can vary widely.

A study by Zest Labs showed that shelf life varied as much as 21 days for romaine hearts and 12 days for strawberries within stores.

With this level of uncertainty, wouldn’t knowing the real shelf life be nice?

Understanding the real shelf life of a batch of products enables better freshness management. It also allows for FEFO instead of FIFO (described below).

FIFO fresh produce

FEFO fresh produce

As seen in the images above, if you shipped the newer strawberries last then it likely would rot before a customer can eat it.

If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to read our free Ultimate Guide to Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction.

Ultimate Guide to Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction

How to Predict Shelf Life

The most common way of predicting shelf life is still static testing, which involves letting produce rot and seeing how long it takes.

tomato static testing downsides

Technology has made it much easier in recent years to predict shelf life. There are four major technologies to predict fresh produce shelf life.

Your application will determine the best solution to pick. If you want employees to determine shelf life in under 1 second by with a handheld device then spectroscopy may be the best option. Spectroscopy has been used in the food industry for various applications, as well.

shelf life prediction

What if You Knew the Freshness of Every Product?

Once you know the shelf life of your products, you have an objective standard to base decisions on.

This makes inspections simple, improves logistics, and helps ensure products don’t go to waste.

Benefits of shelf life prediction

OneThird Offers Leading Shelf Life Prediction

OneThird has developed shelf life prediction technology to assess fresh produce in real time. To learn more, contact us today or take a look at our various applications.

 

 

A Sustainability Advisor’s Take on Food Waste

Eden Owen-Jones achieved a 2:1 BA in Social and Political Science at the University of York. A triple faculty BA in Politics, Sociology and Social Policy gave her a base in the global political economy specialising in sustainability, environmental foreign policy and welfare economics. Now, she volunteers with food waste organisations in the South of England.

Learning About Food Waste

In the summer of 2016, I was on my gap year and working at a leading British supermarket. I regularly found myself running around with a trolley full of reduced food, yelling things like, “Who wants cheap bread?” and “Lovely food, still great to eat!” I was trying to prevent it from being thrown away. Otherwise, company policy directed us to discard all bakery products daily. Meat, fish and deli items that hadn’t been sold within two days of being opened received the same treatment. I didn’t realise at the time that I was just passing the burden of not wasting that food on to the shoppers. I had no idea of the true extent of household food waste.

When I started working there, I wasn’t aware of the supermarket’s policy, and employees were instructed to make the bakery shelves appear abundant at all times. As a nervous new employee, I kept those shelves brimming with freshly baked produce – not realising that I should stop towards the end of the day. One day, I was responsible for over eight garbage bags of fresh, perfectly good bread going in the bin. I was so ashamed of myself.

Food Waste at Home

I learnt to cook at home, in an environment where nothing could be wasted. Oftentimes, I had to be creative at dinnertimes and string the contents of the larder and fridge into a coherent and tasty meal. I thought everyone ignored sell-by dates – why wouldn’t you? That was how I cooked, and I just assumed everyone did the same.

However, when I got to university, I saw my flatmates throw away entire loaves of bread with no visible signs of mould. They even chucked full packets of meat, salad, fruit and veg in the bin, poured perfectly good milk down the drain, and scrapped leftovers. Efforts to discuss this behaviour with them weren’t as successful as I had hoped.

Bread rescued from supermarket waste in the pay-as-you-feel shop at YourCafe.

Food Waste in My Community

Wanting to become more involved in tackling food waste, I came across YourCafe. This group of lovely individuals meets once a week to rescue food from supermarkets that was heading to landfill. They do this by creating a pay-as-you-feel café and shop for the community to enjoy.

Volunteers from YourCafe cooking lunch.

YourCafe’s aim is to educate the community on the issue of food waste and to provide a hot, delicious meal for anyone who wants one. I loved volunteering with them and did it as much as I could. I got to cook all day, creating a menu in much the same way I always had: I worked with the available ingredients and made something great. There were always lots of amazing fresh fruit and vegetables, and sometimes we would have food from other cultures around the world that I had never tried before, like traditional polish breads and sausages. One day, 15 boxes of profiteroles were dropped off.

Vegetables rescued from supermarket waste in the pay as you feel shop at YourCafe.

After working in a supermarket, I wasn’t shocked by what I saw. At the time, the market could not legally donate the food. Since then, positive policy steps have been made in the private sector. Still, the retail market is responsible for less than 2 per cent of total waste. It’s in our own daily lives that we need an attitude transformation.

To learn about food donation policies in the U.S., check out this post from OneThird.

Global Food Waste and Food Security

Globally, every year we farm an area that is larger than China just to produce all the food goes uneaten. This accounts for roughly one-third of all food produced globally. In our current global society, at least 1 billion people go hungry. Meanwhile, the world population will increase by 2 billion people by 2050. Additionally, the agricultural industry faces increasing weather variability and unpredictability which will have a significant effect on the resilience of our food system. And mind you, if we maintain current levels of food waste, our food system will have to increase production by up to 70 per cent by 2050 to meet the world’s growing demands.

For more on food waste and insecurity, follow this link.

Food Waste in the Value Chain

Food security is not and should not just be about increased production, but also about decreasing waste along the value chain. The food we eat isn’t just food – it’s water, soil, fossil fuels, manpower. So often we forget everything that goes into making it. An egg isn’t just an egg, it’s 53 gallons of water.

Food is wasted in every stage of its life: it’s lost on the farm and during sorting, packaging, transportation. Then, it frequently is forgotten about in our fridges. However, a 2011 report found that in high- and middle-income countries, consumer behaviour and quality standards are the biggest reasons behind food waste. In Europe and North America, we waste an average of 95kg-115kg of food per person per year. Recent estimates have said UK households waste as much as 4.5 tonnes of food every year. Something has to change.

What’s the Big Deal About Shelf-life, Anyway?

Shelf-life prediction would be a monumental way to tackle this issue and will enable consumers to look beyond sell-by dates. On this note, YourCafe reminds us to “feed bellies, not bins”. Shelf-life prediction could also reduce waste at the commercial level as supermarkets could use this technology to refine how they mark-up sell by dates.

I don’t think people are happy throwing away food; we’re all just too anxious, tired and busy. Uneasy about your ability to determine a food’s shelf life? You’re not alone! Many of us with demanding work schedules and unsympathetic sick leave aren’t going to want to risk it. Perhaps we can’t face the extra time on our feet cooking and sorting out the fridge at the end of a hard working day. So we get takeaways or buy something we can just stick in the oven and try not to think about all the food in our fridge that we know needs eating. Moreover, sometimes we just don’t want or feel like eating the food we have. However, I would argue that this is a privilege and one we need to fully recognise if we are going to tackle this issue.

What Can We Do to Solve the Problem at Home?

Ensuring something doesn’t go in the bin often takes less time than making a tea or coffee. Making a quick pickle brine for leftover cucumber, broccoli stalks or green beans genuinely takes minutes and gives you something delicious with a long shelf life.

Pickled Cabbage and Pickled cucumber I made in June when I noticed they were beginning to go past their best.

Always remember that the freezer is your friend. I keep ‘Green’ and ‘Red’ freezer bags in there to keep scraps and over-ripe veg for ready-to-go soup mix. It’s a brilliant quick-fix when I get home late.

Some potato’s that “went off” on the 21st of June. I cooked them into the meal in the next image on the 8th of July.

If vegetables like tomatos, celery, or carrots are getting past their best, I often make a “master sauce”. This is just a simple tomato sauce that I store in batches that can be transformed into chilli’s, pasta sauces, or minestrone. Occasionally, I use it to make a play on shakshuka. Really, you can use this master sauce for anything that can use a tomato base.

A lunch I made with left over chilli, the pickled cabbage I made in June, and the potatoes from the previous image, with some vegan crème fresh.

Any fruit that’s looking a bit soft, I cook on the hob for a few minutes and then freeze it as compote to eat with porridge or pancakes. Buy the veg with the bumps and bruises – once it’s cooked, you’ll seldom be able to tell the difference. Make a stock with scraps, get creative with leftovers, make a jar of croutons and breadcrumbs.

Are you someone who forgets when you put leftovers in the fridge? Date label them! This way you’ll know when to use them by. Yes, this can be time-consuming, but it’s also fun and genuinely satisfying.

Ways to Be a Better Consumer

We tend to shop habitually. For example, we buy milk even though we have half a carton in the fridge. Other times, we pick up another loaf of bread when we might have one in the freezer. Planning meals doesn’t have to mean setting aside time to rigidly organise lunches and dinners. At the start, it could be as simple as shopping with meals in mind. This will mean flexibility in your meal choices while decreasing waste. Consumer behaviour does have an impact on commercial practices. How we choose to eat will in time change what we see on the shelves – and hopefully how long it’s there for.

One last idea is to try out food waste apps like Olio, which help you to share your food with your community. Donating food to a food bank can also be a good idea. In the U.S.? Check out OneThird’s interactive map to find a food donation center near you.

If you have any questions about this blog or anything else regarding food waste, I’d be happy to chat with you via LinkedIn.

Happy cooking – you might enjoy it.

– Eden Owen-Jones


Check out other OneThird guest blogs here!

onethird food waste prevention

Food Waste: A Student’s Perspective

Julian Martinez is a senior at the University of California, Irvine. He is double majoring in political and education science. During his time at UCI, he has served as a food worker, peer mentor, and president of UCI’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter. He is currently a food waste ambassador at UCI. 

Becoming a Food Waste Ambassador

My initial curiosity for sustainability began with my 4th grade teacher’s keen interest in the subject. I kept what she taught me in the back of my mind and continued to be interested in sustainability as I grew up. Now, my motivation to reduce food waste primarily stems from my personal experiences of having lacked food security in the past.

When I arrived at UCI, I accepted a position as a “Green Captain” for one of the restaurants that was participating in a sustainability program at the school. Green Captains act as part time sustainability representatives for the various food locations on campus. After a year in this role, I made the full-time commitment to sustainability and became a UCI food waste ambassador.

In this position, I want to achieve two things:

1) promote higher levels of food-resource efficiency, and

2) instill a sense of gratitude in those who have access to food. 

Current Projects

This year, I have been engaging in food waste research, creating educational programming, and providing outreach to inform the campus community of UCI.

I held the first ever waste audit in my living community, Arroyo Vista. As it turns out, my community has done wonders compared to others in terms of proper waste management and disposal.

Every week, I have hosted booths on campus, engaging students in sustainable activities and allowing them the opportunity to learn what the UCI sustainability center is all about.

Right now, my main two endeavors include helping other UCI students learn more about healthy and mindful eating and revamping a sustainable cookbook that my organization created a few years ago.

In addition, I’m implementing a sustainability chair position within the Sorority and Fraternity life at UCI.

I’m working to see that all of these ideas come to fruition during the 2020-2021 school year.

You can learn more about food waste reduction efforts at UCI here.

What I’ve Learned About Food Waste

Perhaps the most shocking and daunting thing I have learned about the issue of food waste is that the United States spends over $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that never gets eaten. This upsets me greatly, considering that there are countless people without access to food. 

In my opinion, the most effective way to significantly reduce food waste is to educate people on the profound effects their individual actions have on the planet and themselves. It is truly a collective effort. Each and every one of us must acknowledge how our own actions contribute to the problem. This is the only way we are ever going to see real change.

Even those who are not so passionate about sustainability can be incentivized to change their habits. We have to lead with the idea that living more sustainably benefits our own health and well-being. Helping the environment is an added bonus.

Moving Forward

To me, people seem overly focused on long-term goals and reaching milestones. In reality, there is no set data point we could reach that would indicate we have accomplished anything in this endeavor, other than totally eradicating food waste or knowing that nobody in the world is food insecure.

In the end, the day-to-day work is just as important as long-term work. If we don’t emphasize the importance of individuals taking small actions every day, it seems unrealistic to set a worldwide goal of halving food waste by 2030. So, we have to focus on what we can do on a daily basis. It’s all about the journey, and not the destination. 

If you find one takeaway here, please know that YOU have the power to make the world a better place. Therefore, creating a cleaner and healthier planet begins with individuals like you acknowledging their own responsibility in this fight. As such, each of us has to make changes toward leading more sustainable lives.


Thank you so much for reading. Much appreciation to the folks at OneThird for allowing me to share my personal testimony. 

If you would like to get in contact with me, please feel free to reach out!

All the power, all the love. 

– Julian Martinez

Email: cjmarti4@uci.edu

LinkedIn: Julian Martinez


Check out other OneThird guest blogs here!

onethird food waste prevention

Holding phone to determine shelf life

Introduction to Walmart’s Eden Project

Walmart’s Eden has already saved the business hundreds of millions of dollars since its start in 2017. In fact, in 2018 they predicted it would save them up to $2 billion over the next five years.

They have been quiet on the exact savings, but it’s safe to assume that this has made a drastic impact on their bottom line. They also ensure fresher fruits and vegetables with Eden, which helps to grow their fresh produce business.

Walmart's Eden Project to Prevent food waste

Reducing Food Waste Has Huge Benefits

The future of fresh produce businesses needs to be more profitable or they will fail.

The future of the planet needs to be sustainable or the human race will fail.

Reducing food waste helps meet these two objectives more than any other improvement.

About a tenth of the global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food waste, and it costs nearly $5,000 per ton. Efforts towards preventing food waste can provide a huge return on investment and help meet sustainability goals.

the US spends $218 billion per year on food that never gets eaten

How Eden Works

Eden is a quality management system that compiles a lot of data to predict freshness and shelf life in fresh produce.

By knowing the freshness, Walmart can optimize the flow of perishable goods. This is known as dynamic routing because they can send the right food to the right place at the right time.

Employees can take pictures of fruits and vegetables and automate the QC process. Sensors track temperature and other factors to give a complete picture of the life of their fresh produce.

using walmart's eden to assess fresh produce

Walmart Created Eden Internally

Walmart’s fresh merchandising engineers started Eden in a “hackathon” focused on finding solutions for tracking food freshness. Within six months, they developed an algorithm to predict freshness and quality based on standards and over a million photos.

This solution would take years to replicate at most other chains and need a huge investment if done in the same way.

It’s safe to assume that you don’t have the same budget for fresh merchandising engineers that Walmart has (or any budget, in most cases). They’ve applied for at least two patents on Eden, so it’s unlikely that Walmart will share the technology that gives them such a leading edge.

How You Can Replicate Walmart’s Eden

There are technologies similar to Eden to deliver similar results in your operation. Some even have more in-depth freshness algorithms to predict shelf life.

OneThird offers shelf-life prediction solutions that are as easy as holding a device up to fresh produce for 1 second and reading a screen. The AI algorithms automate complicated decisions for every business in the supply chain.

Our technology can be built around your existing quality processes and instantly make anyone a freshness expert.

Shelf-life data can be combined with data from other suppliers (temperature, humidity, etc…) to gain an accurate model for fresh produce. The more data, the better.

The result is less food wasted, improved freshness, and millions of dollars saved.

man using onethird mobile app and computer to reduce food waste

Will You Also Save $400 Million Per Year?

Because of the scale of Walmart, it’s a bit unrealistic to save $400 million per year. But the impact of shelf life prediction on your business could be the same.

Eden is estimated to save about 50% of Walmart’s food waste. Let’s assume your business sells 10% of the perishable food that Walmart does. Reducing waste by the same amount would equate to $40 million per year or more in savings.

Don’t believe us? See for yourself with our food waste savings calculator.

If you think of all food surplus as waste, you can clearly see the financial benefits of preventing food loss and waste.

Other Ways You Can Reduce Food Loss and Waste

As most are aware, there are several ways to reduce food loss and waste. The best solution is usually a combination of methods.

To help, we’ve compiled a list of 11 ways distributors and retailers can reduce food waste. We’ve also created The Ultimate Guide to Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction.

Ultimate Guide to Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction

If you’re interested in learning more about how OneThird’s shelf-life prediction solutions can help you save money and improve freshness, be sure to contact us.

 

onethird logo

bananas with bruises

An Introduction to Food Waste and Food Loss

We often hear the terms “food waste” and “food loss” flying around, but hear about food waste more. At the time of writing, there were around 10,000 monthly Google searches for “food waste” and only around 200 for “food loss”.

But how many of us know what the difference actually is?

Both are painful and damaging to businesses and the planet, but their true difference lies in where the waste is occurring.

This blog post describes the difference between these terms and provides insight into reducing both.

Food Loss Definition

definition of food loss

Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019).

Disposed food that occurs between the farm and the business that will be making the final sale is considered food loss. Systemic issues are normally the culprit.

There are solutions out there for preventing food loss, like cold chain management and shelf-life prediction. Operational improvements are the key to solving this issue.

Food Waste Definition

definition of food waste

Food waste refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019).

When food disposal occurs in restaurants, supermarkets, or at the home of the consumer, it’s considered waste.

The difference in the terminology is due to the fact that food waste is often easier to solve with education. Reducing food loss requires smart logistical improvements.

Food Loss Versus Food Waste

 

“We Really Don’t Waste Much Food”

If you think this is the case, you are either looking at the wrong metrics or should be presenting to the UN about SDG 12.3. The average retailer wastes DOUBLE their food profits on wasted food.

Walmart even loses hundreds of millions of dollars per year in lost/wasted food. They have estimated they will save around $400 million per year by reducing food waste with their quality management system, Eden.

us spends $218 billion per year on food that never gets eaten

A Mindset Shift for Reducing Food Loss and Waste

Many companies reach their sustainability goals by diverting waste using methods towards the bottom of the food recovery hierarchy. However, the goal of “waste diversion” is broad, and having 100% diversion may even provide minimal impact.

Start thinking about reducing surplus food instead of food loss and waste to see greater improvements. You should focus on staying towards the top of the food recovery hierarchy instead of settling towards the bottom, with activities like anaerobic digestion.Food Recovery Hierarchy

Sure, it’s great that we can reconvert food to energy through anaerobic digestion. There is not much economic value in this after the taxing cycle of growing, processing, and transporting food.

In fact, ReFED says anaerobic digestion has an economic value of only $21/year per ton. Yes, $21 without a “k” after it per TON. Considering the cost of wasted food is about $5000/ton, this is minuscule (about 0.4% of the value recovered).

Solutions to Reduce Food Loss

Because loss occurs on the farm and in supply chains, it will take smart logistical improvements to make a large impact.

Different ways to reduce food loss include:

  • Cold chain management technologies
  • Dynamic routing
  • Reduced handling
  • Direct-to-customer delivery
  • Improved inventory management
  • And more…

There are numerous ways to prevent food loss, and the good news most can make a noticeable impact on your bottom line and improve sustainability.

No single solution will tackle this whole issue. However, the earlier you get started, the sooner you start saving costs and preventing the unnecessary tossing of food.

We specialize in helping companies implement dynamic routing in the cold chain through shelf-life prediction. When you know the freshness of each batch of fresh produce, you can know where to ship it and re-route as necessary. This maximizes profit and quality while reducing food loss (and waste).

Ultimate Guide to Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction

Ways to Prevent Food Waste

Most solutions to food waste revolve around clear communication and enabling better decisions. Food waste is more preventable than food loss.

Need evidence? According to ReFED, the top two food waste solutions in terms of financial benefit are consumer education campaigns and standardized date labeling. These may seem simple, but the amount of waste that is caused by not knowing the difference between the “sell by” date and a “use by” date is stunning.

There are infinite ways to reduce waste- it just takes effort and prioritization.

OneThird has created a guide for retailers calling out 11 ways to reduce food waste. We’ve also created the 30 Day Food Waste Challenge, which lets consumers try out 30 different ways of preventing food waste at home.

30 ways to reduce food waste

Conclusion

Food loss occurs before the food reaches the consumer. Food waste is when food is being sold to the consumer or at their homes.

OneThird focuses on both food loss and food waste reduction. We work with all areas of the supply chain and help educate consumers to make decisions that reduce food waste.

We even use the term “food waste” when we sometimes shouldn’t because it has become such a standard term.

As education about food loss improves and more solutions pop up, we expect a clearer distinction between the two.

 

 

 

Food Insecurity and Food Waste

As a society, we waste over one-third of all food that is produced. Yet, there are millions of people that are malnourished and don’t know when their next meal will be. Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at the complex relationship between food insecurity and food waste by analyzing population data and considering snippets of U.S. history.

Food insecurity describes the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. In the U.S., 14.3 million households were food insecure in 2018, meaning that it was difficult to provide sufficient food for everyone in those homes. In the same year, an average of 39.7 million Americans relied on SNAP benefits (previously known as food stamps) every month. The coronavirus pandemic has made this situation even direr. Meanwhile, reducing food waste in the U.S. by even 30% would be enough to feed 50 million Americans every year if distributed properly. This is a simple fix to a lot of socio-economic issues.

To learn more about the context and consequences of food waste, follow this link.


Who is Food Insecure?

U.S. Population (2019)

To preface this discussion, let’s start by looking at the racial makeup of the U.S. population.

White alone76.50%
Black or African American alone13.40%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone1.30%
Asian alone5.90%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone0.20%
Two or more races2.70%

The majority of the U.S. population is white (76.5%), while minorities make up 23.5% of the total population.

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U.S. Households (2019)

Now let’s look at how U.S. households are distributed, based on the race of the household’s head.

 

All households128,579100%
White alone, non-Hispanic households84,72766%
Black alone households17,16713%
Asian alone households6,9815%
Hispanic households17,75814%
Other1,9462%

*Numbers reported in thousands

As we can see, 66% of U.S. households have a white head-of-house, which still reflects the majority of the U.S. population is white.

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U.S. Overall Food Security (2018)

Now let’s look at the food security status of households in the U.S.

Note that 88.9% of households are food secure and 11.1% of households experience food insecurity. More than one out of every ten people could go hungry at any time.

Before we dive deeper into the demographics of the food insecure households, consider how the distribution should resemble the proportions of U.S. households based on the race of the head of the house. That is to say, we should expect a majority of food insecure households to have a white head-of-house. Based on the racial makeup of the country, one should expect minority-led households to experience 30-40% of food insecurity, with black- and Hispanic-lead households experiencing 10-15% of food insecurity. However, this is not the case.

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U.S. Food Insecurity (2018)

In reality, minorities have a disproportionately large number of food-insecure households. White households only experience about half of the total food insecurity in the U.S. In other words, 5.3% of the total U.S. population could be categorized as white-lead, food-insecure households; of the 11% of households that experience food insecurity, 48% are white-lead.

Race/ethnicity of head:# Food Insecure Households (thousands)%
White non-Hispanic6,86948.00%
Black non-Hispanic3,52624.64%
Hispanic2,93720.52%
Other non-Hispanic9796.84%
Total14,311100%

While white people are a majority of the U.S. population (76.5%) and own a majority of households (66%), they experience only half of all food insecurity in the U.S. (48%). Minorities comprise only a quarter of the total U.S. population, but experience half of the nation’s food insecurity.


66% of households in the U.S. are white-lead

 

How We Got Here: Linking Housing and Food Insecurity

For the purpose of analyzing the data presented here, we will link redlining and home loans to the prevalence of food insecurity in minority communities.

Redlining and Home Loans

Redlining describes a loan program set forth by President Roosevelt in the 1930s to help Americans buy homes. To decide who would receive the loans, the federal government and banks color-coded maps: green neighborhoods indicated a predominantly white area and red neighborhoods indicated predominantly black areas. In green areas, it was easy to get a loan, and suburb developers prohibited minorities from moving in. In red areas, it was difficult to get a loan. The effects of these policies are still lasting in the U.S. today.

Home Loans, Education, and Poverty

From 1934-1968, 98% of home loans went to white citizens. As white homeowners accrued wealth, families in green neighborhoods became richer, and families in red neighborhoods were trapped in poverty. Even though laws were eventually passed which made redlining illegal, families in red areas could not afford to move, so neighborhoods and schools remained segregated by both race and class.

Consider how redlining affects education- schools are funded by local property taxes, and property taxes are higher in wealthier areas. So, in poor areas, low home values mean low property taxes, less school funding, worse education, and less job opportunity. All of these continue the cycle of poverty. Meanwhile, the opposite is true in wealthy areas, and so the cycle of wealth is continued.

Food For Thought:

The episode in the show Explained titled “The Racial Wealth Gap” discusses more information on the racial wealth gap.

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Poverty and Food Insecurity

Context: Poverty by Ethnicity

People are living in poverty if their annual income is lower than the federal government’s poverty threshold, which for a family of four is about $25,100.

Let’s look at U.S. poverty by ethnicity.

Again, we see that minorities are disproportionately impoverished compared to the population and household data we discussed earlier.

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Relating Poverty and Food Insecurity

For Americans who find earning a living wage to be out of reach and/or face systemic barriers to achieving income stability, food security is also usually unattainable. The reverse is also true: a household being unable to afford sufficient, quality foods correlates with experiences of unemployment and poverty. This cycle keeps millions of American individuals and families earning low incomes and worrying about providing adequate food for their households.

Remedies for Food Insecurity

Although it is only one step in a marathon, alleviating hunger and food insecurity makes for a more equitable world and one where more women and children can become educated and pursue job opportunities. But, this is still a step we have to take. So what are we to do?

To stunt food insecurity, Feeding America emphasizes the importance of:

  • federal programs (such as SNAP, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid),
  • serving high-need and disinvested communities (such as single parents and communities of color),
  • connecting people with opportunities to build household security,
  • and charitable contributions.

In terms of charitable contributions, food and monetary donations to food banks are the main solutions for improving food security.

Food Insecurity and Food Waste

About 40% of food in the U.S. is wasted. Diverting edible food that would otherwise be wasted by households and businesses to food-insecure individuals via food donation programs contributes to hunger relief efforts and reduces food waste.

We’ve made a map to easily discover food donation programs near you.

U.S. citizens and businesses are often afraid of being sued by or accidentally harming those they donate to. However, there are protections in the U.S. to limit legal liability when donating food.


OneThird and Food Insecurity

OneThird’s main goal is to reduce food waste. Food justice – the movement to reduce food insecurity –  is intertwined with this mission.

As previously mentioned, reducing food losses in the U.S. by even 30% would be enough to feed 50 million Americans every year if distributed properly. Our technology allows for any business in the fresh produce supply chain to determine the shelf life of their produce. Healthy, nutritious produce with too short of a shelf life for supermarkets could quickly be redistributed to food banks rather than becoming waste.

Further, minorities in the U.S. and BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities globally are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Minorities tend to live in locations that are hit worst by climate change and the higher rates of poverty experienced by minorities exacerbates their vulnerability. Additionally, discrimination against minorities make it harder for them to cope with the impacts of climate change.

U.S. efforts to mitigate climate change will be unsuccessful if efforts do not include minority and indigenous communities. There is not much research on how climate change will affect minorities and indigenous groups, and neither receives adequate support from or exerts significant influence over governments. Additionally, there are many systemic barriers to equality, equity, and justice in the context of race. A leading barrier is the higher prevalence of poverty, food insecurity, poor education resources, and lack of job opportunities in minority and indigenous communities.

All this is to say that OneThird acknowledges the relationships between food insecurity and food waste and between food justice and climate change; we are continuing to educate ourselves on this issue and we are committed to using our technology to further both movements.

OneThird and Food Waste

We provide the fresh produce supply chain with solutions that enable retailers, distributors and growers to better assess the quality of produce and optimize its routing, thus maximizing efficiency. To learn more about how OneThird can help your business, contact us or email us directly at info@onethird.io.

one third logo

Food Waste: Worse Than Ugly – By Austin Hirsh

a set of yellow bananas

According to Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is now the #1 best way to prevent global warming of 2 °C by 2050. This reflects the scale of the problem: 40% of all food produced in the US currently goes uneaten. Imagine the impact of a potential solution. In the United States, 25% of all fresh water consumed, 13% of all carbon emitted, and 80 million acres of farmland is used to produce the food we eat. When food is wasted, so are the resources used to grow it. This leads to $218 billion in losses annually (about double Bill Gates’ net worth).

Fortunately, awareness of food waste has been steadily growing over the past few years. Startups like Imperfect Foods have popularized the sale of “ugly produce” – fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be culled out of the food chain due to cosmetic imperfections. Using ugly produce is a great first step in reducing food waste, especially considering fruits and vegetables are the most wasted food group, with a whopping 48% of American produce going uneaten. However, we need more radical change in order to truly fix this broken food system.

The 2050 Company

As I have developed The 2050 Smoothie over the past year, I have discussed the issue of food waste with farmers, fruit distributors, grocery stores, and other start-ups. I have realized that the issue of food waste extends far beyond “ugly produce”. Food waste is systemic, nuanced, and multifaceted. To create a lasting impact, we must adjust our perception of imperfect produce and unilaterally repair an imperfect system.

In this post, I will describe the three primary areas of food waste that I have identified while building The 2050 Company. I will work backwards through the supply chain, starting in homes, where food waste is most recognizable to the average consumer, before eventually diving into the less intuitive waste that occurs in stores and on farms. I will also describe how The 2050 Smoothie evolved from an “ugly fruit smoothie” to a functional product that incorporates solutions to each type of food waste.

food waste in the supply chain

Source: NRDC

The Household: 39% of Food Waste

The largest culprit of food waste in America is not the farmer, the supplier, or even the grocery store. It is you and me. The United States is one of the only countries in the world where food waste at home outweighs waste at any other level of the supply chain; almost half of all food waste occurs in households! And we all know this waste. It is the brown bunch of bananas on your counter and the half-full box of spinach wilting in the back of your refrigerator.

As if to add insult to injury, the USDA found in 2018 that the healthiest Americans are the most wasteful. Healthy people waste more food because they eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. As Lisa Jahns, USDA nutritionist and co-author of the study, said, “We need a simultaneous effort to increase food quality as well as reduce food waste. We need to put both of those things out”.

food in trash can

Addressing Food Waste at Home

Reducing waste in homes relies heavily on changing consumer habits. You can waste less today by simply making banana bread, freezing your extra spinach to use in smoothies, or buying only what you will be able to eat.

Many new ventures now specialize in making it easier to reduce waste at home. Apeel Technologies made waves in May when it became the first anti-food waste company to reach a billion-dollar valuation, promising to dramatically increase the shelf-life of fresh produce with a natural coating.

The 2050 Company has taken a different route. We use freeze-drying technology that is already widely available to extend the shelf-life of fresh produce from days to years. Freeze drying simply removes the water from fruit, leaving all nutrients and flavor intact. Our customers can store The 2050 Smoothie on a shelf in their pantry for more than a year, eliminating waste and reclaiming freezer space. You simply blend the 2050 Smoothie powder with ice and water to reverse the drying process. Once blended, the smoothie has the same taste, texture, and nutrition as a fresh fruit smoothie! Since The 2050 Smoothie is more sustainable and more convenient than the alternative, our customers can make their daily habits greener without making their lives any harder.

Retail: 29% of Food Waste

Most of us are familiar with the second area of food waste as well. We contribute to this waste every time we go to the grocery store and examine five avocados to find one with the perfect color or knock on a dozen watermelons until one sounds just right. Often, the fruits we leave behind due to their imperfect appearance taste just as great as their “perfect” neighbors.

Last summer, a local fruit vendor told me how frustrated she was by customers who came in and left bruises on dozens of her peaches to find one that “squished just right”. Everyone wants to buy the peaches with the perfect mix of yellow and pink in their skin, she said. But, no one knows that the completely yellow ones actually taste the best.

With these consumer preferences in mind, it is not surprising that grocery stores have enacted policies to eliminate all “ugly produce” from their shelves before customers even see it.

various fruits for sale at a grocery store

Addressing Retail Food Waste

As mentioned above, ugly produce has received notable buzz recently. A handful of businesses sell produce that grocery stores would reject. Imperfect Produce, Hungry Harvest, and Misfit Market are good examples of those businesses. Other companies focus on extending how long fresh produce lasts on store shelves. OneThird, for example, makes a handheld scanner that can predict the remaining shelf-life of a piece of produce to the day.

While developing The 2050 Smoothie, we took the model of ugly produce suppliers one step further. We do not need to ask our customers to look beyond the appearance of ugly fruit for the sake of sustainability. All of the produce in our smoothies is ground into a fine powder, so cosmetic flaws are completely eliminated. Once powdered, an ugly strawberry and a beautiful strawberry really are identical.

Farms: 33% of Food Waste

So far, I have discussed waste due to perishability and waste due to cosmetic flaws. Most people are at least somewhat familiar with both of these waste streams. Though farms are the beginning of the produce life cycle, the waste that happens on farms is not so intuitive. Farmers must cull produce based on factors related to both shelf-life and appearance. However, these two types of food waste are only the tip of the iceberg. Holistically, waste on farms is tied to climate change, consumer preferences, and a complex system of supply and demand.

Farmers face myriad hurdles throughout the year that affect their output. Changing weather patterns may cause buds to break too early or too late. Tariffs may eliminate world markets. Fickle customers may suddenly decide that a certain crop does not fit their latest diet. Recently, the COVID-19 crisis wreaked havoc on farmers nationwide as bulk purchases from restaurants evaporated overnight and seasonal workers became a rare commodity.

Underlying all of these risks is this: consumers do not fully understand that natural trends shape how a farm operates. We expect fresh strawberries in January, though they only grow in June. And we rarely stop to consider the massive pressure that these expectations place on our agricultural systems. How are our farms meant to oppose the natural seasonality of our environments?

a farm with mountains in the background

Addressing Farmers’ Concerns

Most farmers I have spoken with worry less about consumers’ habits. They do not worry about consumers eating more ugly produce or keeping foods for longer in their homes. What they really want are solutions to the more systemic agricultural problems. So, we have to tackle these issues at the start of the supply chain. Otherwise, any waste reduction efforts further down the supply chain must be accompanied by a huge asterisk. To significantly reduce the amount of water, land, and carbon resources wasted on uneaten produce, we must start by ensuring that good produce does not rot in fields.

This is the hard problem of food waste: as important as it is to talk about making ugly produce more appealing or fresh produce more long-lasting, we cannot forget the fact that 20% of produce grown is never even harvested!

On the bright side, this problem is basically an issue of supply and demand. Modern business is built to handle this relationship. Slowing the rate of climate change will rely heavily on policy changes. However, the world of business is uniquely suited to achieve the single goal of reducing food waste. I believe that the solution to systemic food waste is to “flatten the curve” of supply and demand. We need to meet produce where it is.

Our Food Waste Solution

For example, local strawberries harvests in my home state of Washington occur in June and July. Could we buy and store the entire surplus of fresh strawberries in June and sell them in January? What if we could make a deal with local farmers: “If you invest the resources to harvest this field of strawberries instead of letting them rot, we will buy them all”. Imagine being able to freeze dry all of these strawberries in a single day, lock in all taste and nutrition, and store them for up to two years.

The 2050 Smoothie product

Systematic food waste reduction is not an idealistic aspiration, but a concrete goal achievable in a matter of years. Welcome to the future of food.


Austin Hirsh of The 2050 Smoothie holding his product and a smoothie

Austin Hirsh is the founder of the 2050 Company. The 2050 Company makes value-added food products that actively reduce waste in the food system. Their flagship product, the 2050 Smoothie, is a nonperishable, instant smoothie made partially from rescued produce. To learn more about the 2050 mission and join the waitlist for The 2050 Smoothie, visit the2050.co

alesha hartley

alesha hartley

We sat down with Alesha Hartley, a sustainable food systems advocate, to talk about the food waste issue, how everyone can help, and the future of the food system.

Q: What’s your background and experience with sustainable food systems?

I worked in the food and beverage industry for a long time as a pastry chef, where I saw a lot of food waste firsthand in hotels and restaurants. Because of this I decided to transition to the sustainability side of the food system and have since received my Master’s Degree in Food Studies from NYU.

I have worked on many food waste and sustainability-related projects and I have volunteered as a food waste advisor.

 

Q: What’s your motivation for working to reduce food waste?

There are four reasons why I’m trying to reduce food waste. To help hungry people, to benefit the environment, to help companies save costs from wasted food and to help generate economic activity.

 

Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment in this space?

My proudest moment was volunteering for the sustainability board in my town. The board consisted of multiple stakeholders, including members from the municipality. I was able to present food waste reduction strategies for use in local schools. I was connected with a local teacher and taught her how to do an ad-hoc waste assessment to gather data to add to our presentation to the Board of Education.

This made me proud because I could teach someone something and they could take this knowledge to others- creating a butterfly effect that activated others. Through this experience, it gave me great joy to hear that the students got excited about reducing food waste.

 

Q: What is the most shocking thing you’ve learned while fighting this issue?

It’s hard to pick just one because there are so many.

The first that comes to mind is that food waste occurs in every country, including developing ones. In developed countries, it’s more common for waste to occur at the end of the supply chain while developing countries suffer loss in the storage and distribution phases of the supply chain.

The next that sticks out is that date labels are not indicative of food safety, but rather food quality. This has lead to a huge amount of confusion and wasted food.

 

Q: What do you think it will take to halve food loss and waste by 2030?

The coronavirus pandemic has upended a lot of the data that was being collected. Regardless, it will take a coalition of everyone in the supply chain and people of multidisciplinary educational backgrounds coming together. It will take a collective and diverse effort from people including consumers and entrepreneurs to create lasting change.

For example, including people with a non-traditional background in Food Studies, HR, or Educational Design would provide benefits. Governments must play a role in solution development to unlock new opportunities and provide incentives for reducing food waste.

I want everyone to know that it is DOABLE. Many people think of sustainability as unattainable or something far off in the distance, but we all can just take baby steps first. Is baby steps for you just a new recipe to use broccoli stems? It’s an improvement.

Start where you feel you can create the biggest impact for the least effort. Then build upon those baby steps every time you incorporate another form of sustainability to your life. It does not have to be expensive. People have the power to change if they’re willing to and are enabled to.

(Author’s note: We have created the 30 Day Food Waste Challenge so anybody can learn new ways to reduce food waste)

Q: Let’s say we meet the UN’s goal and halve food waste by 2030- what will still need to be done? 

We will still need to keep doing the same thing as we did in the first half. We will not be done. We should celebrate, but continue and remain diligent.

If we get to 100% waste reduction we have to set up systems to maintain it. It’s like working out. If you stop once you reach your target weight then you will gain back the weight you lost. 

To stay at 100%, it will be based on sustainable, diverse supply chains with increased diversification of the food we eat. This will improve supply chain resiliency in both developed and developing countries. We also need to keep coalitions funded and not give up! Consumer education campaigns must also be continued to teach the new people that are born. 

 

Q: Where do you think shelf life prediction could play an impact in areas you have worked in? 

This could be a game-changing disruption. Date labeling is subjective and not scientific. If we can leverage this type of technology to better pinpoint when an item will expire, then that has the potential to support a date label’s ability to then reflect a food’s level of SAFETY.

An important note of caution is it has to be accurate. Otherwise, it could contribute to food waste.

However, it could have immense benefits. One example would be informing the procurement manager of a restaurant that an item is near expiration. They can then inform the chef who can then get a special out immediately to get it sold and in the belly of customers.

 

Q: Do you feel any other messages are important alongside reducing food waste? 

We all need to think about strengthening and creating resilience in the food system. This includes not only economic development, but also creating biological diversity. We are only eating a few crops. Diversity helps farms and helps us get more nutrients in our diets.

We need to seek out advice from indigenous partners. They have been cultivating this land for thousands of years and are great stewards of it. 

The best way for consumers to help is to educate themselves on what indigenous crops are. Then vote with your fork (and dollar) because stores carry what people want to buy.  

 

Q: What is one thing you wish everyone would do or at least consider? 

 What is the smallest baby step you can start with right now and incorporate? Even if you don’t believe in climate change, what is one thing you can do to help the environment or live a healthy life for yourself?

In terms of food waste, meal planning is my recommended first step. We tend to pick up more than we actually need. Shop with a list and meals in mind that you know you will make so you don’t overbuy.

 

Q: Do you have any closing words?

Food insecurity is real. Climate change is real. Reducing food waste can help both of these. With the COVID-19 crisis, food insecurity will only get worse. We need to get food into the bellies of people in need. Tackling food insecurity and waste will bring about a sense of pride in doing something bigger than yourself and doing your part as a human to help the human race move forward.

 

Q: If people want to get into contact with you, what is the best way to reach out? 

Contacting me through LinkedIn would be my preferred method of contact. 

 

 

Thank you Alesha for the meaningful conversation about sustainable food systems. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit our blog.