It’s Food Waste Prevention Week in California, and all across San Diego County leaders and City Councils are proclaiming that food waste is an issue---and there is something that each of us can do about it.
The County Supervisors, the City of San Diego, the City of Del Mar, the City of San Marcos, and the City of Chula Vista all passed Proclamations for Food Waste Prevention Week in order to acknowledge and support the San Diego Food System Alliance’s “Save the Food San Diego” initiative, to encourage all residents to minimize their footprint, and to visit www.SaveTheFood.com for tips, tricks, and recipes to help reduce wasted food, and save money, too.
Addressing wasted food is one of the key issues for the San Diego Food System Alliance (SDFSA). Nearly half a million people in our region are food insecure, while around 500,000 tons of food in the county is disposed to landfill each year. After individuals, consumer-facing businesses are the largest contributor to food waste.
We understand that with recent California legislation, AB 1826 and SB 1383, that our local jurisdictions are faced with the challenges of reducing food waste generated and increasing edible food donation. But they can help, by supporting staff involvement in “Save The Food San Diego”, a county-wide food waste awareness partnership that leverages the national “Save The Food” public service campaign, a partnership with NRDC and the Ad Council.
Although planning efforts are underway, in San Diego County we do not have robust systems in place to compost or digest food waste. This leaves us in a unique position to work on reduction and donation as a priority first step before new infrastructure and systems are finalized---which is the preferred strategy for highest and best use of resources.
Food waste is a significant issue in California.
· The United States is losing up to 40% of its food from farm, to fork, to landfill. Uneaten food wastes enormous quantities of precious land, water, energy, fertilizer, human resources and money.
· In California, nearly 5 million people are food insecure, lacking consistent access to enough food. Roughly 1 in 8 Californians are experiencing hunger, and 1 in 5 of those are children.
· Food waste also represents the largest single category of waste in landfills in the US. Food waste decaying in landfills emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas linked to climate change.
During this week, a range of partners statewide will come together to raise awareness about the impacts of food waste in our homes, workplaces, and communities.
Governor Jerry Brown has issued a letter of support and several state agencies have announced the week of March 5-9, 2018 as California’s first Food Waste Prevention Week. Happening in March to coincide with National Nutrition Month, partners nationwide are urging everyone to Go Further with Food. According to the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Californians throw away nearly 12 billion pounds of food each year, wasting precious land, water, energy, and human resources and contributing about 18 percent of all the material that goes to our landfills.
While many people may not think much of tossing food in the trash, consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farms, grocery stores, or restaurants. Forty percent of all food thrown out happens at the individual or household level. Unused food can add up financially for families. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that an average family of four tosses out about 1,000 pounds of food each year, wasting roughly $1,500.
There are other costs from our unused food. The United States is losing up to 40% of its food from farm, to fork, to landfill. That translates to $218 billion lost including costs of food to consumers and retailers, as well as wasted water, energy, fertilizer, cropland, production and transportation. When food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane gas - a climate pollutant 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).
The quality and amount of food that people eat each day play a vital role in health and wellbeing. A 2014 USDA report estimated that a staggering 1,249 calories per person, per day in the United States are wasted—more than enough to feed all the 1 in 8 Californians currently experiencing hunger and food insecurity. That nutrition loss could have fed people, not landfills, if only it had been used, instead of tossed. According to Feeding America, over 4.8 million Californians experience hunger or food insecurity, over 1.8 million of whom are children.
Reducing food waste requires action by partners throughout the food system, including food growers, processors, and retailers. But it also requires action from all individuals as well as agencies, organizations, businesses, and community groups.
Incorporating a few simple food waste prevention actions - such as freezing food and using leftovers – can immediately help reduce food waste.
Post by Barbara Hamilton, Director of Strategic Initiatives