The world produces 4 billion metric tons of food every year - nearly 17% more than it did 30 years ago. This is enough to feed the world’s population of over 7 billion people. Even so, 1 in 9 people go to bed on an empty stomach each night. The math doesn’t add up. If we are producing enough food, why does food insecurity and global hunger remain an international crisis? Why is the fact that nearly 3 million children die of under-nutrition every year not on everyone’s radar? This is both a global problem and an American problem. It touches men and women, young and old - everyone. So let’s start talking about it.
Closely tied to food insecurity is food waste. One third of global food production is wasted, costing the global economy nearly $750 billion annually. Many in developing nations cannot logistically obtain the food needed to feed their families. Food is lost during harvesting, transporting and production. The World Food Programme (WFP), who part of our upcoming event, is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. WFP helps farmers get their food to the people who need it most, by providing technologies for storage and transportation helping to prevent crops from spoiling prematurely and by connecting them to markets.
In developed parts of the world, food is wasted on the plate and in the refrigerator. We over-produce and buy more than we can eat. In the United States, a family of 4 loses on average $1500 in wasted food each year. It’s something we can all work on - reducing food waste and working towards zero hunger. And making a difference is easier than you think, starting with these five steps.
- Plan your meals and stick to grocery lists: 50% of food in America is wasted. It may seem obvious, but when making a grocery list, check expiration dates to see what needs to be used in your refrigerator first and plan a meal to use those ingredients. Just because lettuce is wilted, doesn’t mean its bad. When we are purposeful with our food purchasing we are more likely to utilize everything we buy, rather than let our impulse buys sit in the fridge past their expiration dates. Shop more frequently for fresh produce and buy smaller amounts/only what you need.
- Learn the art of freezing: Each of us throws away 300 lbs of food each year. The freezer is your friend. Portion out fruits, vegetables, meats and bread with your future use in mind. This will enable you to just pull out what you need for a meal and cut down on cooking too much. Additionally, get in the habit of freezing leftovers instead of tossing them in the trash. To keep your frozen food fresh and minimize freezer burn, make sure to squeeze any excess air from plastic bags and containers. Baby purees are especially easy to freeze in ice cube trays or small containers, enabling you to just pull out a couple ounces at a time to feed your little one. This also makes it easier to expand your baby’s taste buds by letting them try small amounts of different foods at once.
- Give your overcooked veggies some love: Just toss your overcooked vegetables in a blender with stock, milk, cream, or water to turn them into soups or sauces. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and potatoes are all great candidates for this. Over baked fruit can be added to oatmeal or baked goods. Just because you over steamed the carrots when trying to prevent your 3 year old from tearing apart your in your living room, it doesn’t mean those mushy carrots can’t become a delicious meal.
- With kids, start with small portions: Let’s face it, kids waste a lot of food. I have to do deep breathing exercises every time my son starts shooting blueberries across the kitchen. It’s not their fault - studies show that many children have to try a food up to 15 times before accepting it. When introducing new foods to little ones, start with small portions to minimize food waste. Once they show an interest and affinity for a new food, you can always offer seconds!
- Become a role model for the next generation: Our kids are watching us. They see us throw out uneaten food and whole heads of uncooked broccoli that have been sitting in our fridge too long. We are teaching them through our behavior and it’s time to start behaving more responsibly when it comes to food waste. Engage them in creating a recipe for dinner using only what is in the fridge or pantry. Volunteer or donate to a local food bank. When we show our little ones how we are all interconnected, we raise responsible citizens.
Want more? Next week, on Tuesday, June 19th, you're invited to join Mindr and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) at Ribalta Ristorante (Union Square) for a panel discussion about how to minimize food waste and stop world hunger. The panel will include Celebrity Chef and Neapolitan pizza expert Pasquale Cozzolino, WFP External Relations Officer Shannon Howard and child nutrition expert Jil Feldhausen. Trust us, you don't want to miss this.
Sarah Gibbs is a #MINDRMAMA of two and a public policy expert living with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. Although she misses her former New York life, she’s loving exploring her new home in NC with her two littles.