With Thanksgiving just behind us and looking at all the ways I can use up the bounty of leftovers in my refrigerator, I got to wondering how much food goes to waste in America. The US produces about 591 Billion pounds of food each year and up to HALF of it goes to waste. Did you know that annually, Americans waste around $100 BILLION dollars on unconsumed food? For the average household, we throw away around $600 dollars a year in food waste. There are a lot of ways I would rather be spending that $600 bucks than dumping it in the trash!
Being a frugal farm girl at heart, I really try not to throw anything away that we can avoid. We’re always re-making leftovers and composting for the garden. That reduces the garbage some, but I know that there’s still a lot that goes to waste. Evidently some of the most common ways we waste food is by purchasing items for recipes that we never actually make, buying impulse items that never get eaten, or washing extras down the food disposal. I suppose that could partly be remedied by making a food menu and strictly sticking to it, not wasting the money on impulse buys just because it looks good and not dishing up more than we’re going to actually eat.
The sad thing is that the waste begins at the farms themselves, which really surprised me. Lettuce, for example, has an average harvest rate of 85-90%. The rest, the heads that don’t look or feel perfect on quick inspection, are just left to rot in the field. One cucumber grower said that at least half the cukes on his farm aren’t harvested at all, mostly because they are too curved (making them hard to pack for shipment) or because they have small blemishes such as white spots or cracks. The losses are generally higher for hand-picked fruits and perishable vegetables than for machine harvested commodity crops like corn and wheat; about 9% of such crops planted in this country aren’t harvested at all!
Just think of all the hungry people we could feed if they were allowed to glean in the fields as the Bible instructs us to allow them to do! It would eliminate the problem of feeding the hungry in our nation! Then we could take all that extra money that would no longer be wasted and use it to feed the hungry in the rest of the world!