Blogs that do not fit into any other category, but are still related to the food system and/or reducing food loss/waste.

niek kolner lab technician

niek kolner lab technician

Niek Kolner is a dedicated lab technician for OneThird.

We sat down with him to learn more about his background and motivations.

What’s your role at OneThird?

I’m responsible for analyzing fresh produce daily and developing new analysis techniques. I provide the data input for our data scientists to create their algorithms that predict shelf life.

What’s your career background?

I studied Biology & Medical Laboratory Research. After this, I worked in medical diagnostics as an analyst in molecular microbiology.

Why were you drawn to working at OneThird?

I’ve always been intrigued by collecting and analyzing data to make a change in the world. I had never had a role outside of human health research, but since working here I can see how we are benefiting humans and the planet.

What has surprised you most from working in this role?

Seeing how much food is wasted is shocking to me. Much of this issue is preventable, so it came as quite a surprise to me.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

Having new analysis techniques I developed used to determine the end of life in produce.

Let’s say it’s 2050 and companies in the food system have all taken the right steps- what does that look like?

People value their food more. If food was more expensive then people would waste less of it. It’s important to make people realize the impact of throwing their food away.

Produce will be grown and sold locally. It doesn’t make sense to me that beef and poultry raised in The Netherlands is being exported, but also imported from Canada and Ukraine. We also receive tomatoes from Spain and strawberries from Egypt, while The Netherlands is one of the largest producers of these in the world.

Fruits and vegetables should also be grown and sold seasonally. Importing strawberries from Egypt because they are out of season in the Netherlands makes no sense to me. It is much more sustainable to just eat what’s grown locally during any season.

What’s your favorite hobby outside of work?

I’m a big fan of sports and like to stay active. I’m also a big fan of cooking.

I am more aware of reducing my food waste impact when cooking, and it has been interesting to see how I can turn my leftovers into new recipes.

What’s one thing you wish everyone would do or at least consider doing?

People should do more research on what they’re eating and eat less processed food.

remco horstink of onethird

The OneThird team works hard to bring our shelf life prediction technology to the world.

We sat down with Remco Horstink, our bright R&D engineer, to learn more about him.

What’s your role at OneThird?

My role at OneThird is diverse and depends on what we need most at any given time.

I help improve the quality of shelf life prediction. This includes performing various tests on the current hardware and on promising new hardware, as well as building and designing new measurement setups.

Every now and then I help to program our measurement software and do data analysis.

 

What’s your career background?

I just graduated with a degree in Applied Physics from Saxion University of Applied Sciences in Enschede, The Netherlands.

Funnily enough, I worked at a distribution center of one of the biggest supermarkets in The Netherlands as an order picker in 2016. This helps me in my current role at OneThird because I have an understanding of operations at distribution centers.

I also interned at Radiotherapiegroep Arnhem, a radiotherapy institute at the Rijnstate hospital. Here I worked on a trend analysis website, programmed in Python, to provide them with important data.

I joined OneThird almost a year ago as an intern and have since become an R&D engineer.

 

Why were you drawn to working at OneThird?

I discovered OneThird through one of my teachers and was instantly drawn to it because of the way physics and the optics are applied in a way that has not been done before in the food industry. 

It’s rewarding to use my knowledge in applied physics to fight food waste, which the world crucially needs.

 

What has surprised you most from working in this role?

What surprised me most when working in this role is the diversity of the work, as well as the workflow speed. Because we are a startup, developments happen very fast, and everyone’s tasks often change based on those developments.

Everything we do is focused on solving customer needs and it never gets boring. 

 

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

I was able to successfully analyze strawberries through an imaging setup that I assembled myself. It’s a great feeling to see my work directly helping a customer and knowing that I played a large role in making it happen.

An example from this setup is below.

hyperspectral strawberry imaging

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

People will have to make a much greater effort towards reducing waste at home. If all meals were prepared in a controlled environment, where all leftovers and discarded produce were reused, there wouldn’t have to be any consumer food waste.

However, since many people like cooking, people must be educated and take steps to reduce food waste.

 

Let’s say it’s 2050 and stakeholders in the food system have all taken the right steps- what does that look like?

Food only gets discarded when it’s actually not edible or not sellable anymore, instead of when it “could be not edible”. This means all companies have a robust way of checking whether food is still edible or not, instead of relying on an inaccurate “best by” date. Discarded food gets reused in some way so nothing is lost, for instance for biofuel or animal food.

Also, people that don’t like to cook can buy long-lasting food packets with all components the body needs. They can eat these packets and cause no food waste at all (and since they’re storable for a longer duration, these packets are also handy for travelers).

Finally, everyone has solar panels to convert sunlight into energy for their home. Everyone will also convert their leftovers into biofuel using solar energy to power an at-home pressure cooker system.

 

What’s your favorite hobby outside of work?

I like playing the piano. I started when I was about 8 years old, so I’ve been playing for many years now. I also like riding my motorcycle.

 

What’s one thing you wish everyone would do or at least consider doing?

Save your leftovers. Also, don’t fill your entire plate with food if you’re not sure you can eat it all. You can always get more from the pan later, or if not, save what’s left inside the pan for later. 

 

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.

 

 

What is AI?

There are entire textbooks detailing what AI is.

First of all, it stands for “Artificial Intelligence”. This just means a computer is making decisions based on data.

Its usage has been growing because of the benefits that businesses see, especially in the food system. There are some technologies, like high-speed sorting and shelf life prediction, that can only AI can do.

Why is AI Used in Food Production and Distribution?

Two major trends show the need for AI in the food system.

  1. The increasing population
  2. A decrease in the number of people working in agricultural jobs

There will be 70% more mouths to feed by 2050

Because more people are being born every day, we have to find ways to feed them using the resources we have. There is a finite amount of land on the planet, so we must make the most of the food we do grow.

AI helps to make harvesting decisions, make smarter supply chain decisions, and reduce waste in other ways.

We have never had fewer people working agricultural jobs

150 years ago, around half of all people worked jobs in agriculture. This is now below 2% in America. Between 2008 and 2018, 236,800 agriculture jobs were added in the U.S. The BLS expects the U.S. to only add 10,600 agricultural jobs between 2018 and 2028.

The lack of human resources is one reason innovation and automation are important. If we have nobody to replace the roles people have filled for thousands of years, the food system falls apart.

What Are Some Benefits of Using AI in the Food System?

AI allows you to analyze huge amounts of data in a small amount of time.

Here are a few benefits the food and agriculture industry has seen:

  • Increased cost savings
  • Shelf life prediction and better routing decisions
  • Less time spent generating reports
  • Reduced food waste
  • Improvements towards sustainability goals
  • Easier and automated quality control

quote about measuring

AI is used all across the food system, and the benefits differ for each business.

Different Ways AI Can Be Used in the Food System

In this section, we’ll discuss some of the more common applications of AI for the food supply chain.

ways AI is used in food system

Harvesting Decisions for Growers-

Knowing when to harvest certain crops is important for growers. AI has been able to accelerate research in this area. Growers can use mathematical equations to calculate harvest time, but what if one of those factors changes? And how do you know afterward if it was the right decision?

AI is powerful because you can use data (historical, current, and future) to make real-time decisions. It also allows you to analyze trends and make improvements over time.

Sorting Food-

Gone are the days where you have to inspect and sort each fruit and vegetable by eye. High-speed sorting today can handle thousands of items per minute and has revolutionized the industry. Equipment can sort items based on size, appearance, and quality. In the future, it will also be possible to sort based on shelf life to ensure consistent quality in each batch.

Shelf Life Prediction-

Shelf life prediction has been researched for over 20 years and you can finally use it in your business. OneThird is at the forefront of instant and accurate shelf life prediction technology. We have handheld devices that can make anyone an instant freshness expert. Major benefits include easier inspections, objective standards, and dynamic routing.

Be sure to read our free Ultimate Guide to Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction to learn more.

Ultimate Guide to Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction

Dynamic Routing-

Wouldn’t it be nice to ship products expiring first out first? This is tough/impossible to do without knowing the shelf life of a batch and how it compares to others. With AI, this is a breeze.

Using dynamic routing, any company can quickly assess freshness and determine where to ship batches to maximize profit and minimize waste.

Customer Demand Forecasting-

It’s tough to predict what customers will buy at any given time. It is a major cause of food waste, and one that many in the food supply chain have said is their biggest pain.

Some companies can use social media, newsfeeds, weather data, and historical data to predict consumer demand.

Even increasing accuracy by one percent would save millions in food waste costs. Having proper forecasting can also benefit other applications, like dynamic routing.

Quality Assessment-

There are a lot of ways to assess the quality of fresh produce.

How many of these solutions can incorporate climate data?

How many can instantly compare results to every other measurement taken on that variety of produce?

With AI this can be done objectively in under 1 second and by anyone. You don’t have to rely on a gut feeling or visual assessment anymore.

In-Store Assessment and Dynamic Pricing-

Produce managers spend a large chunk of time assessing produce on shelves to determine if it is good to sell or not. What do they do with produce that doesn’t visibly change when it goes bad? Do they leave it on the shelf and harm their reputation from the customer receiving a bad product?

Chances are they will just toss products when they pass the sell-by date.

Shelf life varies for every piece of produce and too much edible food is thrown out because of limited knowledge on true shelf life.

What if you could know the remaining shelf life and price accordingly?

With dynamic pricing, retailers can sell lower-quality produce at a lower price, and vice-versa. AI is used to determine optimal prices for each type of fruit and vegetable to maximize profit and minimize waste. One such company, Wasteless, is doing that for several retailers.

Waste Measurement-

Many company sustainability programs haven’t gained traction because companies don’t know how much food they are wasting.

Some companies are wasting up to 50 percent of their food and still have no clue!

Mainly used in foodservice, there are solutions to monitor what exactly is going into waste bins and the weight of that waste. Knowing this information, you can know exactly how much you spend on wasted food and can track improvements. AI enables food recognition and improvement suggestions.

What Are Common Concerns With AI?

Since AI often can outperform humans and replace labor, it does not come without fear.

“This will steal jobs”

This is one of the most common fears of AI. While most applications are implemented to increase the output of existing workers, there typically are savings in labor hours. For most businesses, reducing labor hours is necessary to keep up with the competition. If a company is left with a high labor cost, it will be less profitable and lose customers to competitors offering lower prices.

However, having employees perform more meaningful tasks and using AI to automate repetitive tasks can improve job satisfaction.

“How do we know we can trust the AI outputs and suggestions?”

This depends on the technology, application, and business you are working with. Most companies in the food system already trust AI for critical business processes. It’s already used in your email to filter out spam!

However, it’s important to keep an eye out for red flags and implement solutions you can trust.

“This will complicate things for our employees”

There is a common fear that having employees use technology will make them overwhelmed and perform their job at a lower level. The right solution should get rid of the annoying and tedious tasks they face and make their job simpler. If an employee’s job is becoming more difficult due to AI, it may be time to critically evaluate that solution.

“It will be expensive to implement and run”

AI technology can be expensive at times, but it should always be justifiable if it has a big price tag. If a solution can save you an extra $1 million next year, how much would you pay for it? You could technically have a return on your investment if it costs $999,999. However, you always need to determine the return on investment (ROI) of all potential solutions and pick the best ones.

Preventing food waste can cause huge cost savings. Don’t believe us? Check out our Food Waste Savings Calculator.

Which AI Should You Implement?

The answer to this question depends on what your application is and what problems you are facing.

It is best used in aiding employees to do important roles in their job and to speed up the non-value-added aspects.

Artificial intelligence can also handle analyses that humans aren’t able to perform themselves and it is already commonly used.

How Can OneThird Help You Reduce Food Waste with AI?

OneThird uses AI to measure and analyze spectral data and compare it to thousands of measurements and external data sources to determine the shelf life of fresh produce.

You can learn more detail about how our technology can benefit growers, distributors, and retailers on our website.

Our video below explains more about our mission.

 

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

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.

– – – – – – – – – –

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.

– – – – – – – – – –

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.

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Friends of Champions 12.3

OneThird is officially included in the network of Friends of Champions 12.3! Our association with this group focused on achieving United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 is an important step in our journey to help halve global food loss and waste by 2030. With membership in this group, we have opportunities for collaboration and networking with other companies with the same mission as us.

Who are Friends of Champions 12.3?

Champions 12.3 is the group of CEOs working to achieve UN’s SDG Target 12.3. The Friends of Champions 12,3 network features companies and organizations that are contributing to the worldwide momentum on this issue to halve food loss and waste.

What is OneThird’s Mission?

OneThird’s mission is to implement a platform for objective quality assessment across the supply chain to enable smart decision-making. In turn, this data-driven approach will reduce food loss and waste in every area of the food value chain.

 

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