Food waste is a dizzyingly large global problem, as Vancouver filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and husband Grant Baldwin discovered while making their documentary, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, a Vancouver International Film Festival Impact Award winner.
“The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that a third of all food produced worldwide—about 1.3 billion tons—is wasted each year, as well as the resources, energy, water, and fuel that went into producing and transporting it,” says Rustemeyer. In Canada, she says, about 40 per cent of the food we produce is wasted, at a value of $27-billion.
I spoke to Rustemeyer by phone for my Montecristo interview and so much of what she shared with me was beyond the scope of my story, but really valuable, useful information, so I thought I’d share it here!
Rustemeyer cited a paper by Dana Gunders for the Natural Resources Defense Council, titled Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, which says:
Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States.
Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.
This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions.
Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple-bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers.
And another article, that ran in the Edmonton Journal by Liane Faulder titled Canadians trash $27 billion worth of food a year, doesn’t paint a pretty picture in Canada either:
“It would be easy to assume that most food loss is linked to spoilage in grocery stores, or excess production at food processors or in restaurants, or careless handling by farmers and food industry truckers. But 51 per cent of food waste in Canada is generated in the home,” says Faulder.
So, as a home cook, what can you do to reduce food waste?
Rustemeyer shares 10 tips for reducing food waste at home:
1. Eat leftovers
Get creative and use up whatever you have sitting in the fridge! Even if you already had it yesterday.
2. Don’t be a hasty waster
“Understand that best-before, use-by and sell-by dates are indicators of peak freshness, not food safety,” says Rustemeyer.
3. Menu plan
“Plan your meals and only buy what you know you'll be able to use,” she says. Making a weekly menu plan is an important ritual in The Life Delicious wellness curriculum, so that you’re not only setting yourself up for nutritional success, but ensuring that everything you’ve bought goes toward nourishing you – and not your compost bin.
4. Refrigerator triage
“Create an 'eat first' section of your fridge,” says Rustemeyer. Use up those wilty greens before you eat the crisp stuff.
5. Shop smart
“If you can, shop for a few days – not the whole week,” she says. This way you’ve got fresh fridge food that’s less likely to go bad.
6. Expand your culinary creativity
Take that sad, wilty produce and those leftover food scraps and make them into something amazing! Soups, stews and smoothies are a great way to use up random leftovers. And if you’re not able to use them right away, freeze them for another day.
As an apartment-dweller, composting vexed me for years – I really wanted to do it, but my buildings never had the facilities and my only options were to amass piles of organic waste in my teeny freezer and then schlep it to the weekly farmers market, or find a home-owning friend who had a bin in their backyard.
Imagine my excitement when the City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver regional district banned food scraps from going into the garbage on January 1, 2015 and my apartment building got an organic waste bin! *Jazz hands*
Check out this link for more info on the program and what can and can’t go in your bin.
8. Shop ugly
“Buy imperfect produce,” says Rustemeyer, “it will still taste great!”
There’s been a movement toward buying funny looking food – from the French supermarket Intermarché’s ingenious Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign (watch the video below) to EndFoodWaste.org’s @UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign (check out their Instagram account) – which is perfectly healthy and in need of a hungry tummy!
9. Don’t let mama feed you
“Serve meals family style,” says Rustemeyer, “so each person takes only as much as they want on their plate.”
10. Spatula City
“Use a spatula to scrape the bowl clean – often there’s a whole extra serving in there,” she says.
I’ve been using this trick and it’s so true, there’s a lot of food clinging to the pot, pan or container! Also, I like spatulas. Have you seen one of my favourite movies, UHF? They like spatulas too.