EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — UTRGV Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems B.S. Program Coordinator, Dr. Christopher Gabler said with the amount of food thrown out every year, world hunger could be solved overnight.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension reports 46.5 million Americans receiving food and other services through the food bank yearly. Dr. Gabler added one in five RGV residents are experiencing food insecurity.
The USFDA reports food waste is 30%-40% of the food supply. That equates to 150 billion pounds of food that are costing Americans over $200 billion a year. It’s also enough food to fill up the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California every day, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
“When we waste food, we’re not just throwing away money,” said Dr. Gabler. “We’re wasting land, we’re wasting water, we’re wasting labor, and we’re wasting a lot of energy. There are massive environmental impacts associated with food waste, so they’re driving climate change.”
Food produced in the U.S. uses 10% energy with 3% being lost, 50% of land, and 80% of fresh water with 25% of it being lost.
Wasted food leads to pollution in our waterways which in turn kills fish and creates fishing dead zones, according to Dr. Gabler.
Reducing food waste can be as simple as storing foods properly. Fresh produce needs to be used in 2-3 days and cooked meals need to be dated.
Home composting is also recommended by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. It helps improve the soil and keeps uneaten food out of the trash and landfills.
Dr. Gabler also suggested not grocery shopping on an empty stomach and having a plan for each ingredient purchased.
However, when shopping, a common mistake Dr. Gabler told ValleyCentral consumers make is reading best by, sell by, or expiration dates.
“Unfortunately, there aren’t any rules or regulations. There’s no set rules or laws about how this labeling has to be done and that creates a lot of confusion which means that a lot of people throw things away because they think it isn’t safe when it’s perfectly fine,” commented Dr. Gabler.
Dr. Gabler added sell by and best by dates means it’s good beyond that date. The store just needs to sell it by then. An expiration date is provided for safety purposes.
If you’re unsure if something has spoiled, use your nose. The human nose can detect sulfur which is the main chemical produced once a product has gone bad.
Instead of tossing out food, you can visit Feeding America’s website to find a local pantry near you to donate to.