Across the United States, billions of pounds of food are thrown away annually, an amount that comes to roughly 300 pounds per person. How does this excess occur and what are the side effects of this large-scale disposal?
Food waste occurs when any edible item goes unconsumed, from grocery store items that are discarded prior to shelving to consumers leaving food on their plates. The waste also occurs when available food goes uneaten after harvest, due to agricultural conditions or improper storage.
"Food waste not only results in wasted money for consumers, but in wasted nutrients as well," said Julia Buckley, a registered dietitian nutritionist with The Valley Hospital. Many of the more commonly discarded foods include fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood—which result in the loss of protein, dietary fiber and important vitamins and minerals such calcium and vitamin D.
As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month, this year’s theme of “Go Further with Food” is challenging people to become more aware of the food waste around them. "The goal is to not only start our day with a healthy breakfast, but to be mindful of our food choices, meal planning and meal preparation in an effort to reduce food loss and waste," said Buckley. "Learning how to manage food resources at home and how to cut back on your food waste will help us all to 'Go Further with Food' while also saving nutrients and money."
Wasted food affects the economy and the environment, but is largely preventable. Here are a few ways that you can help reduce and prevent food waste:
- Plan meals based on foods that are already in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry; choose recipes that utilize those ingredients and only buy the ones you don’t have.
- Buy only food that you can consume or freeze within a few days.
- Put foods that spoil fast within sight.
- Utilize proper storage techniques and only wash produce right before using.
- Get creative with leftovers.
- Be mindful of portion sizes when preparing food at home and when ordering out.
"With a little effort, we can all make an impact on reducing food waste and its effects on our economy and environment," said Buckley.
For more information and tips on how to combat food waste, click here.