Did you know that 40% of food produced in the U.S. gets wasted? While many households are considered food insecure, the rest of us are throwing out 25% of what comes into our kitchens. Food waste is a bigger problem than you may think.

What causes food waste?

In developing countries, food waste usually happens on the production side because farmers lack the technology, transportation, infrastructure, refrigeration, etc. that we have the in the U.S.  Food spoils before it gets to the consumer. But in the U.S., the blame for food waste largely falls on consumers.

Thanks to first world technology, U.S. farmers can produce food more cheaply than it’s produced in other countries. And because food is relatively cheap in the U.S., we tend to value it less. We buy more than we need and throw out what we don’t use or want.

Cheap food also means that we can be pickier. The U.S. consumer wants food that looks pristine — perfectly round tomatoes and long, straight carrots. Supermarkets aim to please and give us what we demand.

So, farmers often leave up to 30% of irregularly shaped produce to rot in the field because consumers won’t buy it. Some of it makes it into other processed food like soups and ketchup, but most of it gets wasted.

Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with the food — it just looks a little funny.

Why is food waste a problem?

In the U.S., food waste a symptom of overconsumption. Food that is thrown away (even cheap food) represents wasted resources. Water, fuel, energy, chemicals, and soil — all of these resources are used in excess when we don’t actually eat the food that is being produced.

As people of faith, we need to remember that we don’t own the earth. We are just the stewards of it and we should steward it well. That means finding ways to create more ecologically sound and sustainable means of food production, especially when farming communities in places like California are struggling with water shortages.

What steps can you take to reduce food waste?

How do you think you’re doing in your own kitchen?  This short quiz from ivaluefood.com will make you think about some everyday steps that you can take to reduce food waste. Here are just a few thoughts to get started:

  • Plan meals.
  • Take an inventory of your pantry before you shop.
  • If an item is close to its expiration date, plan a meal using that item.
  • Only buy and cook what you and your family will actually eat.
  • Store leftovers and then eat them for lunches.
  • When eating out, order small plates or box up the leftovers and eat them later.

These are not complicated choices. Reducing food waste just requires a little more awareness, planning and gratitude for the food that we buy and consume.