Amelie Catheline spoke to the club as co-chair of Food Waste Task Force. Food waste is defined as all food lost during its processing, distribution, retail, and consumption. In the U.S., food accounts for over 20% of the municipal solid waste generated, with 40% coming from households. Globally, in 2019, 931 million tons of food was lost or wasted, which is a quarter to a third of all food produced.
Food waste impacts the U.S. in many ways. Economically, it costs $160 billion/year at the retail and consumer level and millions of dollars to manage and dispose of it. Environmentally, landfills are expanding and the rotting food in them produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas and a major contributor to the climate crisis.
To help solve this problem, a food recovery hierarchy - a reverse pyramid - has been put in place with landfills at the bottom. The top starts with simply reducing wasted food, then to using excess to feed people and animals, and then composting. The benefits of not going to landfills is that it reduces the carbon footprint, the use of natural resources, and the overall cost of food.
To help locally, food banks should be supported, as well as school programs that “get the lunch out of landfills” with ways to donate excess edible food and composting the rest. On an individual basis, simple steps to follow include knowing what food you already have when shopping and making sure that leftovers are not forgotten.