The United States wastes 30-40% of its food supply. This happens at all levels in our food chain, from problems during production to spoilage during transportation and in consumer homes.
Not only does this food waste mean families that experience food scarcity could be supported, but it also means that land use devoted to growing food is highly inefficient.
At the local level, there are things individuals and communities can do to promote a better food system. One such initiative is to create community food forests. Other things you can do at home include supporting local food and eating organically.
Local Food Movement
The local food movement that has arisen in neighborhoods and communities around the planet consists of people like you and me who want to know where their food is coming from.
Local food is grown or raised and harvested close to consumers’ homes, then distributed over much shorter distances than is common in the conventional global industrial food system. In general, local food systems are associated with sustainable agriculture, while the global industrial food system is reliant upon industrial agriculture.
Food grown and distributed within the global industrial food system tends to support economic systems of production which are ecologically and environmentally damaging. The carbon footprint of our industrialized, nonlocal system of food production and distribution is one of the primary contributors to climate change. Foods grown hundreds and thousands of miles away must be transported by train, plane, and automobile, which releases dangerous levels of carbon into the atmosphere.
Organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
Essentially, organic food is grown the way humans have cultivated and gathered food for thousands of years, before the rise of the contemporary industrial food system from which so much of our food comes today.
Eating organically not only prevents health problems from unnecessary chemical elements in our foods, but is also more nutritious overall.
The Organic Consumers Association tells us that on average, organic food is 25% more nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals than products derived from industrial agriculture.
Since organic food’s shelf price is only 20% higher than non-organic food, this actually makes it cheaper gram for gram. This figure also leaves out the astronomical hidden costs of industrial food production like damage to health, climate, environment, and government subsidies.
While food waste happens at every point along the food chain, there are things we can do to reduce food waste at home and in our communities while supporting local food suppliers. Reducing your food waste at home may require shifts in your shopping and cooking habits. To learn more, complete the I Value Food challenge, a six-week program that guides you through tracking preventable waste and changing your food habits.
Consider getting involved with a food rescue organization near you. These organizations work to reduce food waste and support those experiencing food scarcity by rescuing and redistributing food that would otherwise go to landfills. Support them with your time and money. Find an organization near you using the Food Rescue Locator.
You can also learn about home composting options to properly repurpose unavoidable food waste.
- Start shopping at farmers’ markets for produce and other goods; find one near you
- Participate in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) to support local farmers and sustainable land use
- For in-depth learning about food resilience, read the articles from the Symposium on American Food Resilience
- Support a food rescue organization