As someone who’s tossed a whole head of lettuce because it didn’t fit in the fridge, I was somewhat ashamed to learn that the amount of food waste produced globally each year is more than enough to feed the 900 million hungry people in the world.
I’m not the only one to be taken aback by these numbers. In light of these startling statistics, the United Nations launched a campaign (last January) called “Think.Eat.Save,” designed to reduce food waste on an international level.
What’s the Deal?
The Think.Eat.Save initiative focuses on food wasted by consumers, retailers, and the hospitality industry. The idea is to help everyone become more conscious of the amount of food they’re trashing. In general, the campaign aims to unify food-saving initiatives already in effect (think the Save Food Initiative and Feeding the 5000) and give even more people the information they need to take action.
The website offers a bunch of resources, including reports from the National Resources Defense Council and other organizations, on the causes and consequences of food waste, mostly in the U.S. For consumers, the site features a series of tips for cutting down on food waste — everything from planning before shopping to utilizing leftovers. Some tentative larger-scale ideas include encouraging food companies to use less packaging and to consider less restrictive expiration dates (without compromising food safety, of course).
The campaign is organized by the United Nations Environment Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and Messe Düsseldorf, a trade fair organizer. Think.Eat.Save supports the U.N. Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge, a plan to end world hunger that launched in June 2012.
Is It Legit?
Absolutely. The campaign is largely based on findings from a 2011 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which found that one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. That’s about 1.3 billion tons of grub per year. (Talk about a food coma.)
Think.Eat.Save is geared largely toward industrialized nations in the Americas, Europe, and certain parts of Asia, where 300 million tons of food are wasted every year. One study found the U.S. wastes 40 percent of its food, to the tune of $165 billion a year. (Other research found school lunches are part of that problem.) School lunch waste among middle school students: nutrients consumed and cost. Cohen, J.F., Richardson, S., Austin, S.B., et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2013 Feb;44(2):114-21. Among the most widely wasted food products are vegetables, seafood, and cereals.
Unfortunately, when it comes to food waste, the problem isn’t just a malodorous garbage pile in the kitchen. Wasted food means wasted water, energy, and land, plus all the trash that builds up from discarded packaging and the greenhouse gases emitted during production and disposal processes.
The good news: Just making people aware of all the food they’re about to toss can significantly reduce the amount that’s wasted Written messages improve edible food waste behaviors in a university dining facility. Whitehair, K.J., Shanklin, C.W., Brannon, L.A. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2013 Jan;113(1):63-9.. Try spreading the word to friends and family and see if that garbage can doesn’t shed a few pounds.
Will you start using the U.N.’s tips for reducing food waste? Share your plans in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.
Originally posted January 28, 2013. Updated June 5, 2013.