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Why you should keep a Food Waste Diary

Food waste diary, sounds like great fun, right? Here’s how keeping one could actually make a difference…

February 11, 2015

Why You Should Keep a Food Waste Diary I

I’m currently taking a free online 6-week course through the University of Reading called, “Our Hungry Planet: Agriculture, People and Food Security. Follow the link to sign-up for the course. I strongly encourage everyone to enroll, but especially those interested in improving the global food system by making it more sustainable and more efficient in feeding everyone.

Remember this post, “World Hunger: there’s more to the problem than we’re led to believe“? It’s where I wrote about how there’s more than enough food to feed the 7.1 billion people in the world yet 1 person out of every 9 goes hungry. Well, this course goes into detail explaining why this problem exists and what needs to be done to eradicate it…you’ll be happy to hear it’s not all doom and gloom.

One of the biggest challenges presented by the current condition of the global food system is that it’s absurdly wasteful. One third of all the food produced ends up in landfills without ever reaching a human mouth. This happens on the production and retail side through “food loss” which indicates food that is discarded because of spills or spoilage (such as lettuce which wilts on its journey from the distribution center to the supermarket), and on the consumer side through “food waste” which means the food that is thrown out after purchase (such as unfinished restaurant meals or ingredients in a home kitchen that rot before they’re cooked). Look here for more detailed definitions of the terms “food loss” and “food waste”.

For now, it’s the latter, food waste–my personal food waste to be exact, that I’ll be most effective in doing something about since it’s entirely under my control. This week’s assignment for the course is to keep a food waste diary: each day for the next week, write down how much and what type of edible food you/your household tosses or composts instead of eating. This includes ingredients that spoil and leftovers that are never eaten. It doesn’t pertain to pits, bones, peels or food parts that normally aren’t eaten…though, a Google search produces a culinary use for nearly any bit of foodstuff, case in point: Stone Fruit Pit Vinegar.

Mostly, when a food diary is encouraged it’s for self-centered reasons: weight-loss is the goal or honing in on food allergies and/or sensitivities. I like that the point of this food waste diary is to look beyond myself, to become mindful of my habits of negligence, and to see how they contribute to the bigger picture of global food waste. To understand what the bigger picture looks like, read the Civil Eats article, “18 Little-Known Facts that Will Motivate You to Cut Back on Food Waste”.

So that’s why you/I/anyone should keep a food waste diary, to realize that our personal food choices and practices have far-reaching effects, and then to improve them. The effects of our choices can be negative, since there’s no doubt that food loss and food waste are among the culprits for global food insecurity and environmental degradation. Or, they can be positive. There’s also no doubt that an increased mindfulness toward food that promotes less waste can (and should) be part of the solution.

For more information about food waste, have a look at the site Love Food Hate Waste.

Also, I’ve listed some helpful resources in the post, “3 ways to help reduce world hunger”.



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