Steps towards a more sustainable food future

As part of a project Creating a Sustainable Food Future the respected World Resources Institute has published a report Reducing Food Loss and Waste. The 33 page report contains a number of proposals which could easily be implemented and which GallonDaily sees as falling into the category of ‘sensible things to do’. While some of the proposals are targeted towards developing countries, many are relevant to developed countries such as Canada:

  • Food redistribution or donation programs, voluntarily giving away food that otherwise would be lost or wasted to recipients such as food banks, are a method for reducing both food loss and waste.
  • Using plastic crates instead of other forms of containerization has demonstrated significant reductions in food losses during handling and storage, particularly among fruits, vegetables, and other forms of fresh produce.
  • Dates provided on the packaging of food and drinks, such as “use-by,”“sell-by,” and “best before,” are intended to provide consumers with information regarding the freshness and safety of foods. However, these seemingly simple dates can actually confuse consumers about how long it is safe for them to store food and when they should dispose of uneaten items. One study, for instance, found that a fifth of food thrown away by households in the United Kingdom is thrown away due to food being perceived as “out of date” due to labeling, when in fact some of the food was still suitable for human consumption. This suggests that while some of this waste may be legitimate due to food safety concerns, there may be room to reduce unnecessary household food waste by clarifying the meaning of these dates and changing the way in which they are used, displayed, and interpreted by consumers.
  • Consumer attitudes and behavior play a large role in determining the amount of food that is wasted in households. Although changing the way people consume and throw out food can be difficult, communication campaigns can help influence consumer behavior at the household level. The grocery retailer can play an important role in reducing food waste at the consumption stage because of the retailer’s direct interaction with food consumers. Pioneering retailers have implemented a number of approaches designed to tackle food waste. For example, the Co-operative Group, which has more than 2,800 grocery stores all across the United Kingdom, has begun printing tips for improving food storage and lengthening shelf-life for fruits and vegetables directly onto the plastic produce bags in which customers place their purchases. The Co-operative Group has also shifted away from “Buy-One-Get-One-Free” promotions for perishable goods, using price reduction promotions on such goods instead.
  • For restaurants and other food service providers, food portion sizes can dictate the amount of food waste that occurs within the four walls of their business, since larger portions increase the likelihood that a consumer will not consume all of the food purchased. Reducing portion sizes for consumers in both direct and indirect ways can both decrease food waste and save money for food providers.

The report, which contains many more proposals to reduce food waste as well as much more detail on the above, can be found at http://www.worldresourcesreport.org/ by scrolling down to Installment 2: Reducing Food Loss and Waste, Download the report.

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