Redirecting Food Waste

by Jeannie Diep, Advance Humanity Partner


We have all added to the food waste count in one-way or another in our lives. Food waste accumulates by throwing away imperfect looking fruit or vegetable, misunderstanding sell-by, use-by, and best-by labels, not efficiently using produce, and tossing leftovers. According to the NRDC Issue Paper (August 2012), the U.S. wastes approximately 40 percent of food yearly.

Food waste contributes to environmental issues by increasing waste in landfill, energy and water needed to produce and dispose of the food waste, and creating more harmful gases by adding to the global warming and climate change. At the current rate of food production and consumption, the Food and Agriculture Organization provides an estimation of 60 percent increase in global food production by 2050 to meet demand.

Understanding the food system cycle shines light on the gap and opportunities to meet the increased demand. In a capitalist society, this means more opportunity to capitalize in the meat industry and finding cost-efficient (cheap, but not better) methods to produce food to fill the bellies of today’s society.


The way we perceive food has a greater impact than we might think. Changing our attitude towards food will open opportunities to try old and new methods in reducing food waste and transition towards food diversion and recovery to feed the hungry.

Surprisingly, FAO reports, “no study has analyzed the environmental impact of global food wastage.” A study that analyzes our environmental footprint caused by food waste would be beneficial. However, do we need to see numbers before we finally realize the preventable waste from collecting in our garbage bins?

The limitations we face during this mission will be putting aside politics and the fear of being held liable for donating food. In reality, the latter limitation is a false notion, since under the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act signed by President Clinton on October 1996 protects food donors.

The challenge is to open our eyes a little wider to notice there needs to be a change in our attitude and behavior on food waste. Our ability to open and embrace innovative ideas addressing food waste will bring us one-step close to tackling the hunger issue. We can explore other options by utilizing what we already have in front of us.

Change makers in the Food System

Providing another route for food waste gives food a second chance to do what it does best...fill hungry bellies. I am sharing several change makers that are starting their own food fight. These change makers take on different forms of food diversion or recovery initiatives.

1. Daily Table. The former president of Trade Joe’s, Doug Ranch, caught the public’s attention towards the end of 2013 with his hybrid grocery store and restaurant concept called Daily Table. Daily Table will open in 2014 in Dorchester, Massachusetts and offer affordable, nutritional meals by utilizing “expired foods” in the underserved community.

2. St. Mary’s Food Bank. This is the world’s first food bank, which started back in 1967. Food banks help distribute food all around their region.

3. DC Central Kitchen. This nonprofit’s approach is “reducing hunger with recycled food, training unemployed adults for culinary careers, serving healthy school meals, and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise.”

4. Food Cowboy. This D.C. startup, founded by Roger Gordon and his brother, Richard, uses Smartphone technology to connect restaurants, soup kitchens, charities, composters and farmers together by rerouting potential food waste from landfills to benefactors.

5. FruitShare Houston. Fruit sharing ideas are sprouting up in other cities such as New Orleans, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. FruitShare Houston harvests unwanted fruits from homes around the community with the help of volunteers. So far, Casa Juan Diego, which serves immigrant and refugee communities, distributes the donated fruits to approximately 400 families.

What other ways can we connect people to food before food reaches the landfills?