Our food system is in crisis. In Maryland alone, one in every nine people is food insecure. In Baltimore, approximately a quarter of the population lives in food deserts, meaning they do not have easy access to fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. When you expand this globally, billions of people are either hungry or eating too much of the least nutritious kinds of food.

Yet, food waste is rampant. In the U.S., we waste between 30% to 40% of our entire food supply. That is equivalent to tossing out 133 billion pounds of food and pouring $161 billion down the drain annually. Additionally, it’s an estimated 141 trillion calories lost per year, or 1,249 calories per person per day. To put this into perspective for Baltimore Ravens fans, the United States wastes enough food to fill M&T Bank Stadium — every day.

Not only is food waste a moral and economic travesty, it is one of the largest threats to the environment today. In fact, if global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, behind only the U.S. and

China. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste accounts for approximately 8% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions. It is also resource-intensive in America, using 9% of the total landmass of the U.S. (approximately the size of New Mexico) to grow food that nobody eats.

The time for watching and waiting for further evidence is over. We need to reframe the way we think about our food and start thinking about our “foodprints” — the environmental impacts associated with the growing, producing, transporting and storing of all food that we consume.

This planet is precious, and I’m proud to support it in multiple capacities as the CEO of Hungry Harvest, a Baltimore-based produce delivery company working to fight food waste and hunger, and as an ambassador for Earth Day Network’s Foodprints for the Future. The foodprints campaign draws awareness to the impact of the food we eat, focusing on the two biggest sectors that pose challenges to our environment: animal agriculture and food waste.

While the problems we face are systemic, they are also surmountable. As individuals, we can make a difference by observing our food choices and incorporating simple sustainable practices into our lives. Here are a few tips from someone who lives and breathes food waste:

Store your produce in the right place. Not everything goes in that fridge drawer. Different produce like different types of environments. Just putting your fruits and vegetables in the proper conditions will immediately help reduce the amount of food waste in your kitchen.

Make better use of your freezer. You can freeze fresh produce, fruits or leftovers that are on their last legs or you just don’t have time to prepare or eat right now. The EPA estimates that about 94% of the food we throw away ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. But it’s not just scraps and rotten produce that we tend to toss; uneaten leftovers make up a big portion of our waste. The NRDC reported that prepared foods or leftovers make up about 23% of the food that lands in trash cans.

Consume food that is languishing in the fridge. Make soups, stocks, jams and preserves. It’s easier than you think. Think of all nutrients and creative opportunities that are missed by throwing away some of the best parts of a fruit or vegetable.

We must do everything in our power to fix the food system. We can’t all drive electric cars or participate in ocean cleanups every weekend. But we can change the way we eat. The small decisions we make around meals will collectively make progress toward solving an enormous crisis. Eliminate waste, eat more plants, buy conscientiously and spread the word to your community.

(9) comments

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DickD

If you have more children, you need more food, MD.

DickD

Food waste is really a new problem. The problem is food is cheap, we have more food than we need and children, as well as adults. 70 or more years ago, you had to work hard, most people no longer work physically. Even farmers have machinery that allows work to be done easier and farmers, along with construction crews are the ones still working hard.

joelp77440

I don't trust that 1-in-9 statistic. I found at recently, from a letter from the state, which makes me eligible for the food bank and other services. I make a good living so why am I deemed, "food insecure." Because my kid likes to eat the school free breakfast, which they make them eat, then the teacher asked her if she ever gets hungry sometimes when not in school. She said sometimes. Oopps. I guess those, CPS black helicopters will be at my door when I get home.

Dwasserba

I was surprised to read once that I live in a "food desert" when we are 1/2 mile, literally walking distance, from our Weis. How...close...does food have to be...

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threecents

Rbt[thumbup]

sue1955

joelp: Just curious; if you are making "a good living," how is it that your child is qualifying for a free school breakfast? Interesting, too, is that the teacher is getting into your business by asking your child if she gets hungry. I'm wondering if you are automatically considered to be "food insecure" because of the particular neighborhood of which you live. I thought that families who partake of free meal programs for their children have to officially apply for those benefits. I'm not trying to troll you - I'm just curious.

threecents

Sue, some public schools offer free breakfast to all the kids. I think that is determined by the percent of kids at the school that need assistance.

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DickD

Good for you doing something decent~[thumbup]

threecents

Sorry, so if we in Frederick don't throw out leftovers, then food will be more plentiful for poor people and those who live in food deserts?

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