Bloomberg News reported last year that 15,000 record temperature highs were reported in the United States during the month of March. Things haven’t really let up, impacting everyone from farmers to families.
And while we still don’t have an official consensus here in the United States as to what is driving this change in the weather, one point is clear: it is impacting our food system.
In the face of unprecedented drought, hurricanes, tsunamis and tornadoes, our nation’s farmers are doing everything they can to deal with this climate disruption.
And the issue cannot be addressed quickly enough. A recent Gallup poll showed that 35 percent of the public reported being affected by extreme weather in the past year.
This erratic weather doesn’t care what side of the aisle we are on. It takes out entire towns and communities in one fell swoop and decimates crops and growing seasons.
In light of what we are learning, what steps can we take to help ensure that we have enough food to feed our families? Waste less.
A recent report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of all food produced globally is thrown away. And it’s not just happening in our kitchens, it’s happening across the food production system, including agriculture, postharvest, processing, distribution and consumption.
As the report states, “This inevitably also means that huge amounts of the resources used in food production are used in vain, and that the greenhouse gas emissions caused by production of food that gets lost or wasted are also emissions in vain.”
And while you don’t hear much about it, it turns out that industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the total amount of food produced in sub-Saharan Africa.
Americans throw away 96 billion pounds of food every year, or 27 percent of the total amount of available food. That’s 3,000 pounds of food a second.
So while the biotech industry is hard at work in laboratories manufacturing demand for their products, claiming we need their genetically engineered and economically-motivated products, it turns out that a key factor in addressing the needs of a growing global population in an increasingly disrupted climate might be to waste less.
Because as the weather gets weirder, perhaps due to cyclicality or perhaps due to man made contributions like the role that the industrialization of our food system might play or the contribution that the byproducts of fossil fuels might make and scientists and researchers continue to investigate, one thing is clear, as by the United Nations:
In a world with limited natural resources (land, water, energy, fertilizer), and where cost-effective solutions are to be found to produce enough safe and nutritious food for all, reducing food losses should not be a forgotten priority.
4 Steps to Reduce Food Waste:
1. Shop Smarter: No need to overload, the grocery store is always there and studies show that consumers who buy less tend to waste less, too.
2. Store Tightly: A lot of food is wasted because it is not stored in air-tight containers. Invest in a few to save food and money.
3. Freeze Bruised Fruit: Squishy bananas and overly ripe fruit can be stored in the freezer to make bread, muffins or smoothies in the future.
4. Organize the Fridge: Top shelf could contain foods that need to be eaten in the next few days, middle shelf could hold foods that last a bit longer and the bottom shelves can handle the ingredients that can sit there for a while.
Eat smart, save the planet? None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. And maybe a quick reorg of the fridge is all it takes to get started.