This post is brought to you in partnership with Hungry Harvest All opinions are our own.
Mention food waste to most anyone and thoughts go to wilting lettuce in the crisper drawer or 2-week-old take-out lurking behind the eggs. Not so much greenhouse gas emissions, the future of our food system and the serious challenges of running a farm. But the 20 billion pounds of produce that go to waste every year in this country tell a totally different story. Every single one of those uneaten fruits and vegetables generates massive amounts of water waste, climate change-inducing greenhouse gas emissions, and makes the already difficult job of farming that much harder. Food waste is destroying our food system and our environment.
Heavy, right? But all’s not lost. The good news is this is an issue we can actually do something about every time we sit down to eat.
Hungry Harvest, a produce delivery service fighting food waste by rescuing fruits and vegetables and delivering them to customers’ doorsteps, knows a thing or two about this issue. Here are the mind-blowing truths about the food waste crisis that keep them fired up to promote food choices that help our planet and our communities:
1. Food waste hurts our planet
Food waste, and all the resources required to grow food that ends up going uneaten, is responsible for 4.4 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. That’s equivalent to about 72% of the emissions from the entire United States over the same period. To bring that down to earthly numbers we can understand, over the last five years, Hungry Harvest has rescued over 15 million pounds of food from going to waste. Just re-claiming those fruits and vegetables reduced 4,334 cars-worth of emissions.
2. Food waste hurts farmers
When food goes to waste, farmers don’t get paid for all the work they do or produce they grow. A good portion of the 20 billion pounds of produce that goes to waste is left unharvested, because a grower just can’t see the sense of spending money to harvest something they can’t sell. Whether that’s because demand dries up, they have a bumper crop and a deal falls through, or the fruits and veggies don’t meet an arbitrary spec for size, color or shape, they still end up not getting paid for the work. That’s where Hungry Harvest steps in, rescues this produce, and pays farmers a fair price so they have a better chance of selling their whole harvest.
3. Food waste is immoral
It’s a moral travesty that we waste 40% of the food in this country when 20% of those around us live in food insecurity — not having geographic or financial access to healthy food on a regular basis. Locally, 1 in 6 residents in North Carolina struggle with hunger and food access. This is insane when so much food goes to waste. Local organizations like Second Harvest are working to make that right, and Hungry Harvest partners with hunger-solving groups like this to reconnect potentially-wasted food with those who need it most.
4. Food waste is water waste
Of all water consumed in the US, 14% is used for irrigating, washing, and processing food that never gets eaten, and less than 1% of Earth’s water is usable and available for use. As demand continues to increase, fresh water will become an increasingly-limited resource. Wasting water to grow food that goes uneaten means there’s less of this limited resource available to grow food that actually could and would be consumed.
5. Food waste is a land-use nightmare
Every year, we leave 19% of our fields unharvested in this country — that’s equivalent to wasting the crops from a farm the size of New Mexico every year. It’s easy to say, why don’t farmers just grow less? All it takes is one bad storm, drought or pest infestation to threaten a farmer’s livelihood if they’ve planted too little, so they have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. In a growing season with no major events, this means they grow more than they expected. The food is grown and ready to be harvested — we need to find ways to get that food to our plates and to those who are in need.
Want to make a difference with your food choices? Hungry Harvest is now delivering in Charlotte, and every Harvest saves at least 10 pounds of food from going to waste, along with all the resources used to grow it. Sign up for food waste-fighting produce delivery.