How is food waste integrated into the system?

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I have discussed policy, production, distribution, and marketing of food in a community. Another key component to a sustainable food system is waste management. Wasting food is a huge problem in the United States; about 40% of food each year goes uneaten, which equates to about $165 billion in food that is thrown out (Plumer, 2012). Large, industrial farms are one reason. The longer distances our food travels, the bigger the chance that grocers will overstock or that food goes bad quicker and gets thrown away earlier.

Community food systems are more efficient for waste management. Composting can greatly decrease the amount of methane given off from discarded fruits and vegetables (Plumer, 2012). In turn, urban farmers can use the compost to fertilize their soil.

Reducing food waste can also tie into strategies to reduce hunger in communities. The Interfaith Food Shuttle, in North Carolina, recovers food from food retailers before it is thrown away and uses it to make free hot meals for anyone in need. In 2011, they recovered 7.1 million points of food from over 350 donors. They also have urban agriculture, nutrition, and job training programs to address hunger from a variety of levels.

Doug Rouch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, is starting a store called Daily Table that will prepare food that is past its sell-by date and sell the meals at junk food prices (Reeves, 2013). Rouch demonstrates that our food does not have to be perfect to eat. The closer the connection to our food, the more we will appreciate the intricate steps it takes to get to the table.

The issue of our food system is not the amount that we produce, it is the way we grow it and the way it is distributed to various populations. Each level of the food system is interconnected; our health and environment is dependent on these processes.

Plumer, B. (2012). How the U.S. manages to waste $165 billion in food each year. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/22/how-food-actually-gets-wasted-in-the-united-states/

Reeves, H. (2013). ‘In the old days, you’d smell the milk’ Doug Rouch wants to sell outdated food at junk-food prices. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/magazine/doug-rauch-wants-to-sell-outdated-food-at-junk-food-prices.html?_r=0

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