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The relationship between food and people definitely reminds me of the type of relationships we all experience in High School. How so? We swore we were inseparable best friends forever, matching necklaces from Claires and even future bridesmaids. But as soon as we turned our backs we would talk shit about eachothers taste in clothes.

Its ironic that all you see on instagram is beautiful selfie pictures with you and your best friend miss juicy burger. Yet when you search for food waste on the web our current country’s culture is the biggest contributor to food waste, no matter how much you show or say you love food, Americans and our lifestyles waste more food daily than any other country in the world. It is easy to point fingers and say food waste is mainly fast food corporations or mass production industries but this isnt the case. Its us as consumers who waste food in buckets.. tanks actually. “If food waste was a country it would be the third top emitter after the USA and China. “ says

Half of all US food provided is thrown away!

In many ways, America is the land of plenty… plenty of food waste. In a country that wastes billions of pounds of food each year, it’s almost shocking that anyone in America or in developing countries face hunger or have food shortages. But yet… 1 in 7 of Americans suffer from limitations in food supply. Food in America is both heavily produced and it is cheaper than nearly anywhere else in the world, which explains why in America food occupies the majority of material in landfills.

Some major reasons for this is because with the help of technology large agriculture corporations are able to produce unnecessary long lasting foods that will eventually be tossed away by us after two weeks of it sitting in our fridge. Another reason why we waste so much food is the cultural trends and preferences over organic, fat free, gluten free, high-fructose corn syrup free, sugar free AND of course vegan foods. This forces purchasers or farmers to leave behind the fruits and vegetables that are aesthetically not worth purchasing or selling (fruits and vegetables that might have be bruised, brown, oxidized, dinged or discolor). In some cases these foods won’t make it past the farmers agriculture fields. Whatever happened to you eat what you get?

In order to address the root of the problem we must first understand where along the supply chain food is being wasted and by who. Who? Well us. Us as consumers have to own up and face the fact that it is a problem that we have created and now we need fix.

We can’t take all the credit though, the retail and grocery markets are helping us increase our countrys waste. In the United States produce grocery markets such as Trader Joes, Safeway, whole foods and other popular ones, are known to be a big contributor to waste. Today, there are close to 65,000 grocery and drug stores nationwide the upside of this market is that food has become more accessible for people in urban and suburban environments and the downside is that stores get overstocked with fresh fruits and vegetables that if doesn’t go bad on the shelves it is thrown away because it aesthetically “ugly”. The USDA estimated that grocery markets toss out $15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables alone each year. Ugly foods are not the only problem, there’s also the issue of “sell by” expiration dates. The USDA report estimated that each grocery store throws out an average, $2,300 worth of food each day because the products have neared their expiration date…yet it isn’t put on clearance for us to purchase it and hopefully not waste it. In many states, it’s still perfectly legal to sell food past its expiration date but many stores prefer not to because “it looks bad”. Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) reported that most stores, in fact, pull items two to three days before the sell-by date.

So my point is that as Americans having it all can be easy to achieve. We often do not appreciate the true value of food and buy more than we need without much thought due to being so cheap in our culture. We should all be grateful we can afford it which is why we should learn to take full advantage of it by not wasting it. As individuals we have the power to control our impact on the environment. If we’re not going to stop riding our cars to the grocery store across the street, the least we can do is reducing the amount of methane we are emitting by throwing out food that is still good. There are many things we can do just at our homes in order to reduce waste. So that next time we go shopping just keep in mind that just in California, nearly 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste accumulates each year… enough to fill the Staples Center in Los Angeles 35 times over.

Here’s 5 ways on how to reduce food waste:

1. Shop smart and realistically.

2. When cooking, don’t over-serve food.

3. Save-and actually eat-leftovers

4. Store food in the right place.

5. Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines as they identify food quality, not food safety. Trust your senses!