In a country where we produce abundant quantities of food to the point where we can feed everyone in America as well as export goods to the rest of the world, it’s a shame if anyone goes hungry. That’s especially true when people waste food.
Approximately 80% of Americans told researchers they reduce food waste out of concern for the planet, but only about half of them think this makes a difference, according to a Pew Research Center study.
Waste is still going up, though. Pew noted that Americans generated 0.6 pounds of food waste per day in 2000, compared with 0.69 pounds per day in 2017, based on its analysis of data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
An estimated 30% to 40% of the food supply is wasted in the United States, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It amounts to about 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion.
Farmers take great pride in what they grow and don’t want to see the fruits of their labor going unused, winding up in incinerators or landfills instead of the kitchens of hungry consumers.
Fortunately, many farmers are working to stem the tide of wasted food, with a variety of approaches. From on-site production of jam made from ugly fruits to making donations and setting up produce delivery services, these efforts help make sure we get the most value out what’s grown.
In some cases, farmers can reduce food waste thanks to assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has made more than 33,000 low-interest loans to farmers through the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program. Commodities eligible for storage loans from the USDA include dairy products, unprocessed pouty and meat, hay, grains, hops, among others.
Farmers generate new income by processing the commodities they grow. For example, they can take berries straight from the field to process into jam. Ugly fruits and vegetables that may be less visually appealing to supermarket shoppers are still tasty and nutritious, so they can be chopped up and turned into sauces, frozen or made into prepared meals such as soups.
Farmers also sell “cosmetically imperfect” and excess crops to local consumers, through produce delivery services. This curbs waste, generates more profit and provides a steady supply of nutritious meals.
Furthermore, donations of excess food to local food pantries are another important way farmers do their part to get more use out of what they grow.
The federal government is assisting farmers to develop new sources of revenue while reducing waste. The USDA’s Rural Development administers the Value Added Producer Grant program, to add value in food processing efforts as well as in marketing new products to boost farmer income.
We can anticipate new approaches to curbing food waste thanks to ongoing efforts from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, which “conducts research to develop value-added foods, biobased products; and reduce loss and waste by developing technologies for postharvest processing, packaging, and storage.”
Farmers are doing more than creating added value by making food products on-site from commodity crops. They are also turning their attention to generating renewable energy from biomass. This involves processing methane gas from cow manure to produce electricity to power farm equipment, per the USDA.
Your interest in reducing food waste in your own life can dovetail nicely with an investment in the farming sector. People are always going to need to buy food that they can’t grow themselves, making farms a wise area for investing. Create a complimentary account and explore available farmland investment opportunities.