You Waste More Food Than You Think

April 29th 2015

Ashley Nicole Black

There is enough food in the United States to feed everyone. And yet 1 in 10 Americans (or 14 percent of households) face food insecurity (meaning their access to food is consistently challenged by money or resources), including 1 in 5 American children. This is because 40 percent of food in the United States is thrown away

The documentary "Just Eat It," (by husband and wife filmmaking team Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin) documents food waste from farms, to retail, to our own refrigerators and plates. While the filmmaking duo expected to discover significant food waste from corporations, they were surprised to learn that around 50 percent of all food is wasted by individuals. According to Rustemeyer and Baldwin, individuals (like you and me) throw away about 25 percent of the food we purchase. In other words, we can solve half our food waste problem by simply making smarter choices at the grocery store, at restaurants, or in how we manage our fridges at home. To prove it can be done, the couple survived only on discarded food for six months.

Throughout the documentary, Rustemeyer and Baldwin also found that wasting food also depletes the resources that go into to producing it (water, labor, transportation, energy, etc). The filmmakers provide several suggestions for what individuals can do to help mitigate food waste:

  • Buy imperfect items that otherwise wouldn't be purchased.
  • Be knowledgeable about labels and what they actually mean. A lot of edible foods are thrown out because the label dates (which are not an indicator of safety) are near. 
  • Manage your fridge. Eat foods before they go bad, and don't over shop.
  • Only order what you will eat. Ask restaurants for smaller portions, and don't order sides that come with the meal that you know you won't eat. 

Also, as it turns out, your mother was actually right when she told you to finish your plate because there are starving children in Africa. 

"...there’s an actual connection. Your mom was right when she nagged you to finish your food, because a lot of commodities and crops are traded on the global market—for example, wheat and other grains. So if we’re throwing away 40 percent of the bread, for example, or even 20 percent of the bread, that drives the price of wheat up. This [global market] is where people in Africa have to buy from as well, so literally, when we’re throwing bread out here, we’re taking food off the table over there." -Baldwin

Here is an interview with the filmmakers: