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If You Waste Food, Are You Eating Sustainably?

Sustainable eating is popular but how does this help if 40% of food is wasted? Before installing a solar panel, we must first reduce energy consumption. Before we can truly eat sustainably, we must first reduce food waste!

Food waste occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, processing and packaging, distribution and retail, and by consumers. By far, most of the waste occurs at the consumer level. That means you! The second greatest losses occur during production.

Ideas for reducing home/consumer food waste:

1. Increase the value you place on food. Cheap available food influences behavior and therefore food waste.

2. Understand label dates.

3. Reduce impulse and bulk purchases.

4. Better estimate your food needs. Use a menu and shopping list.

5. Reduce food spoilage. Store food properly ( Improve visibility and organization of your refrigerator. Store refrigerated food in the proper microclimate—fruits and vegetables in higher temperature areas, usually the bottom, and high risk foods in lower temperature areas, usually higher. Refrigerator doors are a higher temperature microclimate.

6. Reduce food portions.

Ideas for reducing production food waste:

1. Support farmer’s markets. These allow farmers to sell “less than perfect” food that is still of good quality.

2. Support legislation that allows growers to receive a tax credit for excess produce donations.

Sidebar “Understanding Label Dates”

• “Sell by” means the store should sell the product by the printed date, but the consumer still can eat the product safely after that date.

• “Best if used by” means the consumer should use the product by the date listed for best quality and flavor (not for safety reasons).

• “Use by” is the last date recommended for use at peak quality.

You likely will see a marked deterioration in product quality (flavor, appearance, texture) after that date.

– Note: Do not use infant formula and baby food after the “use-by” date.

• “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers used by the manufacturer.

Detailed food storage guide:

A new startup co-founded by two UC Berkeley alumni is doing its part to end food waste and hunger. The website and mobile app, Feeding Forward (, connects people with excess food. It currently serves the San Francisco area, log on and ask for them to expand to Washoe County!

Source: “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill” Gunders, Dana; Natural Resources Defense Council, 2012.

Full report:

By Lisa Hill M.A., R.D.

Member, Washoe County Food Policy Council