We talk a lot about nutrition gaps at Ritual. But we can’t overstate the biggest one of all: that despite the prevalence of food insecurity (which impacts 1 in 9 US households), up to 40% of food is wasted in the US every year. (1,2)
“As of 2019, 870 million people experienced food insecurity on a global level,” says Laura Jellum, Outreach & Communications Director at Food Forward. “That's a huge number, but if we prevented just 25% of all global food waste, we would have enough food to help close this gap–assuming we also had adequate systems in place to redirect that food as well.” That’s not even to mention we’d start to offset the environmental load of producing all that wasted food in the first place. (3,4,5)
It might seem like a daunting task, but the truth is that even making small changes at home can add up to a major difference. Check out Food Forward’s easy pointers for reducing food waste below.
Got excess food? Pay it forward.
“People can do the work of food recovery and distribution on an individual level,” says Jellum. “Can't use all your citrus? Share them! Is your neighbor unable to care for their fruit trees? Offer to help them pick and distribute that produce. Have an hour to spare? Organizations like Lunch on Me in Los Angeles and New York City rely on volunteers with cars to pick up excess food.”
And don’t forget to compost the scraps.
It might seem like trash to you, but those old veggie peels and cores can actually help nourish the soil in your garden—pretty ideal when you consider the alternative, which is sitting in a landfill (where it’s much more difficult for them to decompose). Even if you don’t have a backyard, many major cities offer organic waste collection, which is often repurposed into compost that helps maintain local parks.
Get more mileage out of your produce by storing it properly.
“Place fresh veggies like carrots, and herbs like cilantro or parsley, in a jar of water in the fridge to keep them crisp,” suggests Celia Cody-Carrese, Outreach & Communications Coordinator at Food Forward. Better yet: Grow your favorite herbs on your windowsill for an endless supply.
Organize your fridge according to expiration date.
Sometimes the real culprit behind food waste is “out of sight, out of mind.” Remedy that by putting items with the shortest shelf life front and center, so you’re inspired to use them sooner rather than later.
Meal-planning is your friend.
One of the easiest ways to avoid overdoing it at the grocery store is taking the time to map out your meals for the next few days, and sticking to the list accordingly. (P.S. Your wallet might thank you, too.)
“The first thing that we need to do is recognize the deep intersectionality that lies between food justice, social justice, and environmental justice,” says Jellum. The truth is that all these issues feed into one another, which is why certain communities are more vulnerable than others when it comes to issues like food insecurity and climate change.
The good news? That also means there are countless ways to make a difference in your own backyard. “Once it's clear that all three are connected and required in order to build a truly equitable food system, the possibilities for individual action are then opened up considerably,” she says. That might mean volunteering with a local organization like Food Forward, shopping brands that are looking to make a difference… or just starting with an appetite to learn more.