Study Finds That People Blame Everyone Else for Food Waste
Food waste and food insecurity are two of the nation’s and the world’s biggest problems, and one is constantly working to feed the other. Ohio is working with several food conservation efforts, the most recent of which is a bill that would incentivize businesses to donate their leftover food.
A recent study by PLOS One found that between 30 and 35 percent of the nation’s food is wasted annually, robbing each person of 1,250 calories every day. Food falls through the cracks in each step of the production process, farm to table. According to the study, if food waste were reduced, supply would increase, food prices would fall, and food insecurity would follow.
Through a food scraps initiative, localized composting efforts, and a recent bill aimed at incentivizing restaurants to donate excess food, Ohio is making small steps toward reducing its own food waste.
House Bill 111, introduced mid-last year, would give 10 cents for each pound of excess food restaurants donate to food banks and related organizations, ultimately contributing $500,000 a year to food waste reduction. However this incentive would only last two years, and as it is, household waste still contributes much of the state and nation’s overall food waste.
“If the United States is to reach its recently announced goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030, U.S. consumers must be an integral part of any successful plan, either by directly altering their household food waste behaviors or by inducing other actors in the food supply chain to reduce food waste,” the study concluded.
The PLOS One study recommended relabeling food packages to dissuade people from tossing out perfectly good stuffing, applesauce or pancake mix. They found that 70 percent of people surveyed agreed that throwing out food after the package date would reduce their risk of contracting a foodborne illness when there is no corresponding scientific evidence. The dates on the packages are referring more to the freshness or quality of the food rather than the safety.
No bills exist yet in Ohio to change the way dates are labeled, although there is momentum behind GMO labeling legislation.
People will also throw away food when their children don’t like it or if they buy too much during a sale. Related Ohio EPA findings show that if wasted food were to be composted rather than sent to a landfill, “greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by more than 21.5 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent.”
“This savings is equivalent to the removal of more than 4 million cars from the roadways each year, conserving more than 2 billion gallons of gasoline, or providing annual electricity needs to more than 2.5 million homes,” it continued.
Still, half said they didn’t think they contributed to the problem as much as everyone else, and almost a quarter of the people surveyed said they didn’t have time to worry about food waste and its effects on the environment. As it is, House Bill 111 hasn’t budged from the Ways and Means Committee since last March.