When it comes to wasting food we do give a toss – into the bin
About 30% of all food produced in SA is lost or wasted, ending up in landfills instead of empty stomachs
Imagine coming home with four bags of groceries and throwing one straight into the bin. That’s exactly what happens with most American families, with a new study suggesting that 94% of Americans throw food away.
The study by American Dairy Association Mideast, published on Monday, found the top reason for throwing away food at home is that it’s past its expiration date, while 60% of those surveyed have tossed food because they didn’t think it was safe to eat.
The situation is no different in SA, with the latest data showing that while almost a quarter of the population (12 million) go hungry every day, about 30% of all food produced in SA is lost or wasted, ending up in landfills instead of empty stomachs.
The Household Food Waste Study, which was released by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) six months ago, notes that the average annual cost of household food waste in SA is R21.7m. The study showed that 86% of respondents mostly wasted starchy staples such as bread, rice and mealie pap while 17% managed their food waste either by feeding it to pets or by home-composting it.
A survey released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in late 2017 showed that SA wastes about 10 million tons of food. Fruits, vegetables and cereals accounted for 70% of this throughout the food supply chain – from farm to fork. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has valued this loss at R61,5bn. It said preventing food waste will not only save money for households, but will have broader economic, social and environmental benefits.
American researchers also agree that a few simple changes can help your family use more and waste less.
Karen Bakies, a registered dietician and vice-president of nutrition affairs for the American Dairy Association Mideast, said: “Whether people are over-purchasing groceries or getting tired of their leftovers, too much food is being thrown away.”
She offered these tips to help minimise food shortage. Organise your fridge and follow the “first in, first out” rule by rotating older food to the front of your refrigerator so it’s not forgotten;
Where you store certain foods can also make a big difference in how long they stay fresh. Cheese and yoghurt should be tightly sealed on the top shelf, while produce is best stored in humidity-controlled drawers;
Avoid storing milk in fridge doors because it can get warm each time the door is opened. Put it in the back of the bottom shelf where it will stay cold;
Think your produce looks past its prime? Get creative and throw fruit and yoghurt into a blender for a fresh smoothie;
Move perishables to the freezer, whether it’s leftovers from a prepared meal or extra fruit and veggies. If you can’t use it right away, freeze it and take it out only when you need it;
You can also portion out tablespoons of herbs and sauces and freeze them in ice-cube trays. Just pop one out to use in a recipe. Bakies recommends donating food to charity rather than letting it go to waste.