MANHATTAN, Kan. – You go to the grocery store and buy several items to make meals for the week in your home. Your week gets hectic, and you don’t have time to cook the meals you had planned. Unfortunately, the foods you bought are now either past their peak quality or are obviously spoiled.
Food loss not only spoils your budget, but it also poses a hindrance on your time, said Mary Meck Higgins, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University. She said when food goes bad, consumers have to spend the time to go to the store to buy more food, bring it home, put it away, prepare it and take out the trash. This adds up to be more costly in time and money than it otherwise would have been if the consumers hadn’t wasted what they bought the first time.
Making people aware of avoidable food loss and how to prevent it is a goal of World Food Day, a global movement to end hunger that is celebrated Oct. 16. It is a day to remember the estimated nearly 870 million of the 7 billion people in the world, or one in eight, who suffer from chronic malnourishment, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which established World Food Day. While most malnourished people are from developing countries, more than 49 million people in the United States alone struggle with hunger or food insecurity, and most of them are children.
Higgins, who is also a registered dietitian, said that more than one-third of the food produced in the United States is wasted, and on average, U.S. households throw away 14 percent of food purchases. If a person didn’t waste food, she said, it would be like eating for free for 51 days, or a little more than seven weeks.
“Realizing that you can get 51 days of free meals makes a little bit of planning worth it,” Higgins said. “It makes a big difference not only in your time and your budget on the personal level, but it makes such a big difference in terms of our natural resources.”
On the environmental level, Higgins said avoidable food loss is comparable to leaving the faucet running, since it is responsible for the loss of about 25 percent of all freshwater consumption. Wasted food ends up as solid waste in landfills, and as it decomposes, it produces methane that warms the climate.
Higgins said the foods most likely to be wasted are fresh fruits and vegetables, beverages, bread and bakery products, dairy products, eggs, meat and fish. Consumers can follow many tips to prevent food loss: