Today, millions of Americans are food insecure. According to the most recent data from 2015, nearly 13 percent of American households struggle to put food on the table regularly for their families.
While too many Americans continue to go hungry, food is being wasted at unacceptably high levels. Whether left to expire in our homes or sitting unsold in our neighborhood grocery stores, 40 percent of the food that is grown or produced in the United States is discarded.
Both at businesses and in our homes, Americans have grown accustomed to throwing away food because they've purchased too much, stored it improperly or simply don't find it aesthetically appealing. Combatting food waste is critical in our fight to end hunger. By redirecting excess food to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, we can provide nutritious food to the millions of individuals struggling with hunger.
There is also the environmental component to consider. In a report, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten to be 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
To fight hunger and eliminate food waste, businesses and consumers must come together. Through food rescue -- recovering and preserving perishable surplus food from the supply chain -- we can combat food waste and ensure millions of Americans have access to quality meals.
How the average consumer can make a difference
Consumers can play a significant role in the fight to end food waste. Here is how you can help.
Buy less food. Many Americans tend to buy more than they need. Before you go shopping, make a list and pre-plan meals to help you buy the amount of food you actually need.
Know your labels. Labels such as "best by," "use before," "sell by" and "expires on" can be confusing. In reality, there are no federal standards for expiration dates; rather, these labels are a manufacturer's best guess for when the food is likely to be the freshest -- not when eating the food will no longer be safe. In fact, 91 percent of Americans say they pay attention to date labels in making decisions on whether to eat something, which causes a significant amount of food waste. The Foodkeeper app will help guide you on how long food is safe to consume. Currently, there is legislation pending in Congress to make expiration date labeling more consistent and straightforward.
Donate to local food pantries and soup kitchens. You can deliver excess food directly to the organizations that serve our neighbors in need.
Use your voice. Use social media to raise awareness and educate others about food waste. Tweet, post and comment to encourage your favorite eatery or grocery store to donate excess food to a local rescue organization like City Harvest.
How businesses can embrace food rescue
The food industry has long been a supporter of feeding hungry Americans. Here is how businesses can embrace food rescue:
Work with a local food rescue organization. Food rescue organizations make it easy for vendors to donate food. Organizations like City Harvest collect and deliver excess food from farms, grocers, bakeries, restaurants, and manufacturers at no charge.
Know you're protected. Some restaurants are reluctant to give away their edible leftovers but the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects restaurants from civil and criminal liability should a recipient become ill. Donors would only be held responsible in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Save on taxes. There are tax incentives for businesses to donate food. Last year, Congress passed the PATH Act as Division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, which allows companies and farmers to earn an enhanced tax deduction for food donations.
We know that millions of American are food insecure. And, we know that food is being wasted across the United States. Let's work together to rescue nutritious food and help fight hunger in our country.