What's the Deal with Food Waste?
Oct 11, 2021
By: Erinn Rowe, CEO
In South Carolina, food is the number one item thrown away. With over 600,000 tons of food going to waste every year, food waste is a prominent issue (South Carolina Department of Commerce).
The bakery at my local grocery store sells some of the best fresh bread. My family loves the golden, crispy outside and soft, buttery inside. The smell fills the grocery aisles almost every time I go shopping. While the store plans its output based on buying trends, sometimes all the loaves don’t make it into shopping carts. When there is bread that isn’t bought up, sadly much of ends up in the trash. Stores don’t want to market days old bread as freshly baked, but the bread isn’t “bad”. It still looks, tastes, and is just as good.
You might be wondering what throwing away good bread has to do with feeding our neighbors in need? Food waste is often a hidden issue, and many people don’t realize the impact it has on hunger.
Most of the food that ends up in the landfill is actually good food. Food waste is defined by Feeding America as "high-quality food that is thrown away rather than eaten." So, if food is good, why is it being thrown out? There are a lot of reasons why food waste may occur.
Frequently these reasons include; uneaten food being thrown away in homes or stores, crops being left in fields due to decreasing prices or rising surpluses, mistakes or issues in the manufacturing or transportation of food, and food failing to meet a retailers' standards for color or appearance (Feeding America).
What happens when we are able to keep some of these good foods out of the landfill? More healthy foods can reach the empty tables of our neighbors in need in our communities.
One of our goals at Harvest Hope is to get food that may otherwise be wasted, onto the tables of food insecure households. To make this happen, we partner with local grocery and retail stores in the area for our food rescue program. This program allows us to rescue food from retailers, like day-old bread, that is approaching or just reached its printed “expiration” date and then distribute it to those in need. Don’t worry, each item is hand inspected to make sure that we are following all food safety guidelines.
Our food rescue program does sometimes raise questions about food expiration dates. And while it's easy to assume food that is past its expiration date is bad, that's actually not the case! Oftentimes, the dates you see on food items are known as “best by dates.” This is the date by which the company is promising the best quality of the food item, not when it is actually bad to eat. Many food items have a safe and healthy shelf life that extends beyond the printed “best by date”. By knowing the extended shelf-life of our foods, we can all do our part to keep food out of the trash and on the table.
To help educate you on best by dates versus expiration dates, we encourage you to check out our Guide on Extended Shelf Life.
This month we want to challenge you to keep track of the food waste you create in your household and see if you can reduce it. Below are some ways you can reduce food waste in your home and community:
- Only buy food that you need, to prevent having extra waste
- Eat the leftovers you may have from meal
- Try repurposing leftovers into a new meal (for ideas check out this Feeding America article)
- Only throw away old food if it's past its extended shelf life
- Share information with friends about food waste and extended shelf life
- Make sure you know the guidelines when you donate food to prevent donations from being wasted.