Spring Into Action: Reducing Food Waste, Improving Food Security

by | Apr 9, 2019 | Blog

World War I anti-food waste poster

World War I food waste poster courtesy of the Committee of Public Safety, Department of Food Supply, South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA

In areas of the country where we experience the variety of seasons, we are starting to see signs of spring around us. Dogwoods, azaleas, tulips and daffodils brighten up our roadsides and yards as well as our dispositions. We start to experience more daylight hours and soon we’ll be sharing the road with farmers on their equipment…ready to begin anew. April also gives us time to personally reflect on goals we set for ourselves. As I mentioned in the inaugural newsletter, I have moved from goals to a guiding word for the year – intentional – in thought and action. One area of intentionality is food waste!

My husband and I are doing a better job of limiting the amount of fresh produce bought at one time, changing preparation habits and continuing with our leftover “love.” However, when I did a spring cleaning of our refrigerator a couple of weeks ago, I found a few containers of mysterious-looking content and knew it was time to get serious!

April has been deemed as “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The designation highlights the need for all of us to think not only what we can do in our own homes to reduce waste but what can be accomplished through collaborations with local, state or national public, private and nonprofit partners with which we are connected. Food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash and more than one-third of available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food waste is not only a burden on our environment but when food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for economic growth, healthier communities and overall progress on closing the gap of food insecurity. What can we do? Take action!

Ways to Take Action

Start at Home – Do the simple things! Spring clean the refrigerator and take an inventory of what food you have available before purchasing more. Buy quantities that you can eat in a week or freeze the extra BEFORE it’s past prime and accept the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to “look perfect to be perfect” for eating. And if you have the space, think about composting (a new venture for us). For more ideas, check out www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste.

In Your Community – Open your eyes! For many of us, having access to nutritious food is not the problem, it’s just making the choice. But in any community, we have fellow residents that don’t have that option. Unfortunately, in Kentucky, one of six of us are food insecure, which means “unreliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” The reality is that food insecurity exists everywhere. Take the time to find out about the availability of food banks and how they and homeless shelters receive food. Inquire how your favorite restaurant, place of worship or farmer’s market handle excess food. Is there a system to distribute good food to those that need to be fed in a safe manner? In our community, it is “second nature” of most groups including our seasonal farmer’s market to distribute food immediately to various homeless shelters. Find out how you can get involved.

In Your Region or State – Learn about hunger initiatives and policies covering distribution of excess food. The Feeding America organization, through a nationwide network of food banks, works with states to end hunger. Additionally, the Farm to Food Bank and Farm to School programs are nationwide initiatives connecting locally grown food to those who need it most.

Nationally – Find out how you or your organization can participate No Kid Hungry Campaign – an initiative of Share Our Strength. Recently the organization hosted its first Rural Child Hunger Summit in Louisville, Kentucky, to identify ways to tackle the issue. Learn what USDA, FDA and EPA are doing to reduce food waste in cooperation with companies across the nation through the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions program. Finally, join the efforts and share your stories using the hashtag #NoWastedFood.

One State’s Perspective: Fighting Food Waste and Hunger in Kentucky

Commissioner Ryan Quarles speaking at the Rural Child Hunger Summit, Louisville, Kentucky

Commissioner Ryan Quarles speaking at the Rural Child Hunger Summit, Louisville, Kentucky

The call to action to reduce food waste and hunger has not gone unheard. For example, in Kentucky, fighting food waste and hunger is being approached “from the farm up.” Through the Department of Agriculture under the leadership of Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, PhD, a statewide Hunger Initiative was created in 2016 bringing together organizations and programs across the food value chain to create a dialogue on how best to reduce hunger and food waste. From that dialogue action was achieved. In 2017, Kentucky passed the nation’s strongest food donation law – HB 237, eliminating a perceived legal barrier to donating. This bill provides grocery stores, restaurants, caterers and other organizations protection from liability because of the nature, age, packaging or condition of the food donated. It also clarifies the definition of “apparently fit grocery product” as an item that meets all consumer-safety standards regardless of date labeling.

In addition, the state Farms to Food Banks program provides grants to eligible nonprofit organizations that provide food to low-income Kentuckians for purchasing surplus or “unmarketable” commodities (produce that may be of a shape or size, or have cosmetic imperfections, that make them unfit for sale at retail foods) from Kentucky farmers. What is the benefit? In 2018, over 3.1 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables were purchased from 349 farmers in 64 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. This was enough produce to fill half a plate for over five million meals and provide needed financial support to local farmers – a win-win!

Our Call to Action

Reducing food waste and feeding more are goals that all of us can support whether we live on a farm or in the city. The opportunity awaits us…take the challenge. Spring into Action! Let us know what you are doing to Feed More, Waste Less. Use the hashtag #feedmorewasteless, post pictures and send stories to info@agrinutritionedge. We will continue the conversation.