(BPT) - Up to 40 percent of food grown, processed and transported in the United States is never eaten, yet one in eight Americans suffers food insecurity. The average four-person family wastes $1,500 a year on food.
Food waste in manufacturing and packaging costs corporations $2 billion each year — plus $15 billion for farmers — while dumping 52 million tons of waste in landfills.
The impact of food waste is social, environmental and economic — children and elderly are going hungry, natural resources are being squandered and ever-rising costs of food affect both businesses and consumers.
Reducing food waste at home
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has some best practices for families to save money, help those who don’t have enough to eat, and conserve resources for future generations.
By making a list of weekly meals and necessary ingredients, shoppers will buy less than they would otherwise and keep things fresh, with less waste. Also, checking the pantry and refrigerator before a grocery shopping trip can prevent buying duplicates of things you already have.
Meal prep — washing fruits, chopping veggies, creating portioned servings — can save time and money. Freezing items such as bread, sliced fruit and meat that you won’t eat immediately can save them from spoilage.
Finally, learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by” and expiration dates. This can mean the difference between discarding perfectly fine food and filling up landfills, or saving money and feeding your family food that is still nutritious and delicious. If you’ve purchased foods your family won’t eat or just have too much, find a local community program or food pantry accepting donations.
Several Arkansas food and beverage industry leaders are taking steps to eradicate food waste, from changing policies and logistics, to rethinking how to use previously discarded foodstuff.
Tyson Foods launched “¡Yappah!” this summer, bite-sized chicken crisps made from upcycled chicken breast, rescued carrots and celery puree from juicing or malted barley from beer brewing. Founded in Springdale, the world leader in poultry and beef is dedicated to seeking new ways to make more and better food while helping to build a more sustainable food system.
Rizal Hamdallah, head of Tyson Innovation Lab said, “The ¡Yappah! brand mission is unique, important and far-reaching. It was created to inspire people and partners to rethink their relationship to food and how it impacts society. Through this launch, we intend to address global food challenges such as food waste.”
The chips come in four flavors — chicken celery mojo, chicken carrot curry, chicken IPA, and white cheddar and chicken sunshine shandy beer — and are packaged in recyclable aluminum cans. The crisps would be available to consumers in October.
Bentonville-based Walmart has introduced Eden technology that focuses on tracking the freshness of produce as it travels from farm to wholesaler to retailer to table. Sensors measure and report temperature, moisture and metabolite data, which is then converted to carton-level freshness and shelf life assessment using FDA standards among other data.
Walmart seeks to eliminate $2 billion in waste over the next five years and has already prevented $86 million in waste by using Eden in 43 of its distribution centers.
ConAgra Brands — which makes Bertolli and P.F. Chang’s frozen meals in Russellville, Arkansas — has been leading food waste reduction efforts for nearly a decade and achieved an 81.7 percent landfill diversion rate in 2017 corporate-wide.
“Waste reduction is critically important to our company and we are dedicated to making improvements throughout our operations as part of our zero waste strategy,” said Gail Tavill, vice president, sustainable development, ConAgra Brands. “Many by-products of food preparation are highly valued as animal feed, source material for recycling, energy recovery or composting, or sometimes even suitable for donation to feed people when safe and properly handled.”
Saving money, time and reducing waste
The bottom line when it comes to food waste reduction: Efficient, cost-effective companies are best positioned to deliver affordable products to consumers, grow, create jobs and support their communities. Food waste management as practiced by several Arkansas food and manufacturing industry leaders is not only saving money and resources, it’s making a difference in the lives of U.S. citizens and people around the globe. And using best practices at home is healthier for families’ bodies and their budget.