The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in the Central Sierra, along with Governor Jerry Brown and other California officials and agencies announces March 5-9, 2018, as “Food Waste Prevention Week” in the State of California. UCCE Central Sierra pledges to raise employee and public awareness about the economic, environmental and social impacts of unused food.
According to recent estimates almost 12 billion pounds of food gets thrown away in California each year, and individual consumers are responsible for more food waste than grocery stores and restaurants combined. Forty percent of all food waste happens in homes or by individuals, and nine out of ten Americans throw away food too soon because they misunderstand expiration date labels. “Many people don’t understand the confusing system of expiration date labels that come on food packages,” according to Katie Johnson, Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Advisor for UCCE Central Sierra. “With the exception of infant formula, these dates typically refer to freshness or quality, not to safety. Of course, food does go bad and we should all practice safe food handling to avoid illness – but we shouldn’t be throwing away food that’s still healthy and nutritious.”
Food waste has consequences for communities in the Central Sierra region. California Food Policy Advocates estimate that one in seven residents of Congressional District 4 in the foothills don’t always have enough food to eat. However, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that an average American family of four tosses out about 1,000 pounds of food each year, wasting roughly $1,500 on food that goes unused. “$1,500 of food a year could make a big difference for families trying to put healthy meals on their tables. Everyone in our communities deserves enough safe, healthy and affordable food,” says Johnson.
When food is thrown away, valuable resources like water and energy are wasted as well. For example, it takes around 55 gallons of water to produce and transport one egg from chicken to refrigerator. Food waste is also the single largest component of landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane - a climate pollutant 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20 year period.
Food Waste Prevention Week was created not just to raise awareness about the economic, environmental and social impacts of unused food, but also to inspire Californians to take action. To join in the effort, Central Sierra residents can consider the areas where they see waste happening in their lives and look for ways to reduce it. Solutions might include asking for composting bins to be installed at the office or a community center, seeking out imperfect produce, or working with schools to set up a cafeteria share table.
To learn more about food waste prevention and how to store, save and use food, visit SaveTheFood.com.
For more information on safe food storage and handling practices, visit FoodSafety.gov/keep/.