The World May Be Starved For Healthy Foods but the US is Wasting a lot of its Food

Food Waste

by | Jun 28, 2016

food wasteThe world may be starving for healthy foods. But here in the United States, we sure do toss a lot of it away, prompting our federal government to set a goal of reducing such waste by half by 2030.

From a business perspective, it’s centers on the corporate culture — the ability to get everyone throughout the organization to buy-in. To this end, companies that are either in the food business or in the business of feeding their employees at lunch counters and cafeterias need to have processes in place. Uneaten foods need not be tossed, which then head to landfills and release such greenhouse gases as methane. They can be either composted and used to enhance the soil or if possible, given to needy. Anything but wasted.

“It can be done right and in a way that adds value to your company, and your community,” says Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer at Nestle Waters North America. “But none of it can be done without management governance. Just how is that you team make decisions and then communicate those decisions to ensure that the actions are understood? Success is contingent on good governance.”

Switzer spoke at Environmental Leader’s conference in Denver last week. And while his comments were targeted to sustainability efforts in general, his main theme was that businesses — large and small — have duty to better the environment. Doing so doesn’t just preserve the corporation and the planet, he adds, but it also helps prevent starvation and unrest.

The US spends more than $218 billion growing, processing, transporting and disposing of foods not eaten, says a story in CNBC. That’s 1.3 percent of the total gross domestic product, it adds. If this food is repurposed, it could lead to new job opportunities in such fields as recycling and composting; 15,000 full-time jobs, says the news site.

CNBC references a study by ReFED, which says that restaurants and food services have the most potential for waste but the greatest possibility of creating savings, and revenues. As such, the organization notes that people won’t put excess foods on their trays if the plates are smaller. In any event, it says that employee training is a must — hard to do in a place of business with lots of turnover. ReFED is a collaboration of 30 businesses, its website says.

“Each segment of the food supply chain has a role to play in reducing our country’s food waste, but restaurants and retail businesses have the opportunity to scale up a majority of the analyzed solutions,” says ReFED’s website. Business Potential? $1.9 billion, which includes 11 ideas — nine of which are geared toward prevention of food waste and two toward recycling.

It won’t be easy, says CNBC, in a separate story: Consumers now desire more fresh foods than they did four decades ago, meaning that if it is older, the food is thrown out. It points to California, which is the nation’s biggest agricultural producer and exporter, noting that the University of California at Davis says that a quarter of the state’s landfills are littered with food and agricultural waste.

The waste here seems, well, wasteful. Consider that the United Nations the global population will grow from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion by 2050. The prevention of food waste is thus vital.

“Food waste is heavy and it breaks down and creates methane,” says Dan Gilbert, head of sustainability at ISS, at the Environmental Leader conference. “Instead, it can be composted and that enriches the soil.” Things like plastic scraps, tableware and coffee cups can also be eco-friendly — meaning they are biodegradable and can be turned into compost.

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