A closer look at household food waste

By Holly Johnson, Programs Assistant

Because I work for the Food Bank and see the struggles some Delawareans experience to put food on the table, I naturally pay attention to food-related topics. When I read a recent study about food waste in the U.S., I was astounded and dismayed. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, the average household throws out 20 pounds of food per person per month, and in the U.S. 52% of all food, farm to table, goes uneaten and ends up in landfills.  This is both an environmental and as social issue that needs to be addressed.  I decided that my family needed to experiment in our household to see what exactly we throw away and devise a plan to reduce our overall food waste.

 Meet the Johnson’s.  Mother Holly, 40-something Food Bank of Delaware Programs Assistant.   Father Don, 40-something Cargo Surveyor.  Son Drake, 18, chill Milford high school senior.  Daughter Zoe 13,  angsty Milford Central Academy 8th grader.  Everybody is on board with the experiment.

On September 1st, the first part of the experiment was to do a clean out of the fridge. Expired items were tossed (really expired items).  Best if used by dates were assessed and tossed if needed (that’s a related, but whole other subject). We tossed a total of 22 pounds of food.  We removed the food from the containers when possible before weighing.  We threw away a lot of condiments that looked like a good idea at the time, produce that was slowly molding in the back of the fridge and leftovers that looked nothing like the original product.

 The next task was to set ground rules.  Any waste that resulted from preparing a meal didn’t have to be counted – peels, cores, egg shells – all food leftover from restaurants had to be brought home, eaten or weighed and tossed unless it wasn’t practical.  We had a few instances where we were away from home and wouldn’t be able refrigerate in a timely manner so we had to estimate weight.  Kids reported any food waste at school.  Both are good eaters and very rarely don’t eat everything served.  Both said they had eaten everything.  I’m not sure I believe them, so I’m adding five pounds to the end of the month total.

After all was said and done we wasted a total of 34.75 pounds of food with  a five pound margin of error added for school lunch and breakfast. I think that if we were not paying attention we would have much more waste, so  the Johnson’s are probably bigger wasters than the above number indicates.   What we did learn was that the largest amount of waste after the clean out, comes from restaurants and over buying produce. Next month I will discuss the strategies we are using to keep our food waste to a minimum.

Check out some photos from our experiment!

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Filed under Hunger, Nutrition, Uncategorized

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