According to the United States Department of Agriculture, also known as the USDA, “food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply” in the United States. But what is being done to limit this number? On September 16 of 2015, “the first-ever national food loss and waste goal in the United States was launched, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. USDA and EPA will work in partnership with charitable organizations, faith organizations, the private sector, and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation’s natural resources.”
Despite the efforts of the USDA, Americans still throw away an average of $165 billion worth of food, which adds up to approximately 35 million tons of food per year that goes to waste. The USDA fact sheet stresses that this Thankfully, as stated by the USDA, a number of companies have been working towards solutions to help consumers keep their food longer and prevent food waste.
One such organization, called Apeel Sciences, states, “accomplishing our mission means we will waste less food, water and energy, helping to preserve our natural ecosystems while creating economic opportunities for the 500 million small family farms worldwide.” The company has just recently debuted their first product (avocados) at Costco and Harps Food Stores thought the Midwest. Apeel has developed a solution to short shelf-lives, in the form of a plant-derived coating that protects and prevents citrus and avocados from spoiling.
This coating is made up of lipids and glycerolipids – also known as fatty acids – “that naturally exist in the peels, seeds and pulp of all the fruits and vegetables.” This coating helps the produce retain its natural moisture content whilst preventing oxidation, boosting its shelf life, and keeping it better, longer. However, the formula of the coating differs for each fruit or vegetable to which it is applied. The organization claims that it can double the lifespan of an avocado and has tested the product “peel” on other types of produce such as: asparagus, peaches, lemon, pear, and nectarines. The USDA branded the coating GRAS (or generally recognized as safe), and approved it both to eat and to sell.
Another company working to reduce food waste is Toast Ale. The idea is a simple one: start with unsold bread and use it to make beer. Bread-brewed beer can be dated back thousands of years, beginning with the Sumerians. Today it has become increasingly popular to brew this beverage with barley instead but brewing with bread has helped Toast save 2,175 pounds of surplus bread and crust. Toast Ale has partnered with several New York City bakeries to take their day-old left-overs as the starter for a batch of brew. Some other companies in the United States are creating similar brews to help reduce bread waste including Loaf and Ruggernaut.
Companies like Spoiler Alert in Boston, Massachusetts and Zero Percent in Chicago, Illinois, are also helping to reduce food waste. They connect companies and restaurants with buyers and food pantries to help sell and donate left-overs to those in need. This more direct approach to preventing food waste, through the distribution of excess food to those in need, allows these companies to give back specifically to their local communities.
Managing the amount and type of food purchased, consumers can help limit and prevent food waste. Donating to local food banks and supporting companies can also reduce food waste within your own community.