Even though we might not notice it, an average American throws away 20 pounds of uneaten food every month. This means that about 40% of the food in the United States goes uneaten. In South Carolina alone, food worth 2.5 billion dollars goes into the trash in one year, accounting for 607 thousand tons in the year 2015.
Since 1970, the average amount of food waste increases by 50 % and the food waste reduction goal set up by the USDA and EPA is to reduce the waste by 50% bringing us back to the amount thrown away in 1970.
To get you thinking about your own food waste, please take the following survey:
Problems with food waste:
- Food waste accounts for 16% of methane emission
- Cost: The cost is $25 per ton when composted in SC, but $66 per ton when dumped into a landfill
- Once the food is in the Landfills, there is no to minimal decomposition
- Many people don’t realize how much food they are throwing away
- Raising Awareness in the Christ Church Episcopal Lower School:
- Short presentation about food waste that I used when presenting to the 4th graders:
- Raising Awareness in the Christ Church Episcopal Lower School:
(The actual powerpoint is linked to the picture)
- 4th graders were asked to throw their lunch leftover food into a bucket that was sitting next to the trash cans
- everything that was not food (packaging, plates, banana peel, etc.) was not accounted for and put in the trash
- At the end of lunch, the bucket was weighed
- A total of two buckets, measuring 8.3 pounds of food, were thrown away in one lunch
- there are a total of 70 students in the class
- This project was to raise awareness to the 4th grade, as many students don’t notice how much food they throw away
Composting as a better way to deal with food waste:
- 70% of the average household’s waste is considered compost friendly
- Composting is cheaper compared to using a landfill
- Composting returns the nutrients back into the soil, it can be used as a substitute for fertilizers, even though legally Compost is can not be considered a fertilizer because the percentage of nutrients can’t be determined from batch to batch
- Often self-composting is not considered because of factors like odors, fear of pests, and extra work; all of these are unnecessary worries because ways have been found to eliminate these problems
- How the Twin Chimney Landfill in Greenville, South Carolina composts:
The Twin Chimney Landfill is laid out for 90 years of service. They receive around 1200 tons of trash on a daily basis that is separated and dealt with according to standards.”
- They have air pipes (indicated by arrows in the picture below) with holes in them running under the compost piles, forcing air through the pile, which increases decomposition speed
- A pile is considered to be fully composted after 45 days
- What happens with organic matter that is not composted:
- It is put into a landfill, depending on which category the material falls under, it is either put into a landfill hole with lining or into one without lining to protect groundwater
- The methane gas produced from the decomposition is collected and burned, but the landfill is now working with a private company in the hopes to use the gas as a way to produce energy
Picture 1: Picture of the air pipes the Twin Chimney Landfill uses to air their compost, allowing faster decomposition
One is considered to be food insecure when he does not have reliable access to sufficient food for a healthy lifestyle.
Food insecurity is not only a problem in Greenville but around the world. The data below is comparing different counties in the United States to see if food insecurity is more likely to occur in rural areas, or in urban areas.
Change of Food Insecurity over the years in different Counties from the US (in %)
|Food insecurity 2016 (in %)||Food insecurity 2014 (in%)||
Food insecurity 2009 (in %)
|Greenville County, SC||14.0%||12.9%||17.8%|
|Spartanburg County, SC||15.0%||14.5%||15.7%|
|New York County, NY||15.0%||15.1%||14.0%|
|Hamilton County, NY||11.0%||10.5%||12.1%|
Table 1: Comparing Food Insecurity in Greenville County (SC), Spartanburg County (SC), New York County (NY), Hamilton County (NY)
Graph 1: shows the differences in food insecurity over multiple years, gives examples of urban as well as rural areas and their food insecurity
In Graph 1 with the corresponding data Table 1, the insecurity rates of multiple counties in the United States are compared. It shows data from Spartanburg and Greenville county, both within South Carolina, and it shows data from Hamilton and New York county, both within New York. The idea behind the graph is to evaluate the differences in food insecurity from rural areas and urban ones. As Spartanburg and Greenville County are more likely considered to be urban areas, Hamilton and New York county show a very good contrast between less populated and more populated areas.
The data shows that Greenville, Spartanburg, and Hamilton County all managed to decrease their food insecurity rate from 2009 to 2014, while New York was the only County within the examples, that had an increased food insecurity; New York County being the only one that had an increased food insecurity rate. It his hard to tell, which factors play a role in this change. But New York also shows to be the only county that managed to decrease food insecurity from the year 2014 to 2016.
Most of the time food insecurity is related to low income or no income, but many organizations are working to decrease these rates and help people as much as possible:
What can you do against food insecurity?
- participating in can drives
- volunteering at local organizations
- maybe even driving from grocery store to grocery store and collecting food:
Many people think that the moment a food exceeds the “best if used by” date, they can automatically no longer eat this food. This is actually not true. The “best if used by” date indicates the peak quality of a product and is also a way for production companies to be sure no one can sue them for selling bad products.
The problem is that grocery stores and food corporations are not allowed to use any products exceeding the date and are forced to take everything older out of the shelves. This, of course, is often a waste, since most leftovers are still eatable. The logical and easiest way for a grocery store to deal with those old products is to throw them away, but they can also donate them to soup kitchens, and other organizations that support people, and especially families that are in need of some help.
To find out more information about organizations like a soup kitchen, I decided to get in contact with one. The organization I worked with is called Project Host.
Using food as a tool to nourish the hungry and train the unemployed
- it was found in 1981 by a local church
- they serve about 150 meals a day
- teaching unemployed and underemployed people the skills and knowledge needed to get a job in the food industry
- the food that is prepared by the culinary school is send to public schools that work with kids that are food insecure, giving the kids a chance for three meals a day
- a garden is attached to the facility in which vegetables are grown that are than used to feed the hungry
- What I did:
- I volunteered for a day and we prepared the food and distributed it among the people
- I organized a can drive for the soup kitchen;
- I collected a total of 24 cans
Food waste is a big issue all around the world. Though many people don’t notice, we throw away a lot of food, while other people are scared that they don’t have enough. It is important for everyone around the world to try and minimize food waste and instead donate to those who need it the most. If we manage to reduce food waste by 15 percent, we would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year. This sounds impossible, but it is shown that we are already striving toward less food waste. The Food Reduction goal set by the USDA and EPA is to reduce food waste 50% by the year 2030, so please think about it next time when you throw away your leftovers because you filled your plate too much.
How might you help against food waste in your area, home, or school?