Forty percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten each year, amounting to $165 billion annually. Those facts are hard to swallow in a country where one in six Americans lack a secure food supply. Food is wasted in many ways, but the largest culprit is food left on our restaurant plates, allowed to spoil in our refrigerators, or thrown out in the (often mistaken) notion that it has gone bad. We talk about food waste and ways we can consume more of the food we buy.

Dana Gunders, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who co-authored the study on the reality of date labels and how this leads to waste in America
Dana Frasz, founder and executive director of FoodShift, an organization that works to develop long-term sustainable solutions to reduce waste
Sue Sigler, executive director of the California Association of Food Banks
Tara Duggan, staff writer, San Francisco Chronicle; author 'Root to Stalk Cooking; The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable'

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    What role do these HUGE modern refrigerators play in people over buying food, that then goes to waste.

    We are very French in how we eat and shop, which means smaller serving sizes, smaller refrigerator and if there is any left overs they are eaten for lunch the next day.

    I do not recall seeing the massive amount of food waste in France, Israel or Japan as an example. Both in homes and in eateries. Why is that?

    • Nancy Loomis

      I think that is right on! I remember visiting France in the early 70’s and lots of homes didn’t even have a fridge! They bought fresh food for the day at the market, and didn’t have anything to keep cold in the fridge. Amazing – think of the energy savings!

    • Another Mike

      When I lived for a summer in Germany, there was a produce stand in the subway plaza. Then I passed both a full service grocery store and an Aldi’s on the way to my studio apartment. Made buying fresh food every day very possible.

  • Ameena Jandali

    I avoid wasting food at all costs based on my religious beliefs that it is forbidden (I am Muslim) to do so. Therefore, I avoid over buying, monitor my frig, and don’t allow my kids to throw away food. When I eat out I avoid ordering too much and take home what is not eaten. When all else fails, I stick things in the freezer and make a soup, omelet or smoothie later.

    • Dana Frasz

      Thank you for your comment. Food waste is most commonly seen as a social, environmental and financial issue but often the spiritual side of this issue is left out of the conversation. I’m so glad you’ve raised it here. I see our food waste problem as reflection of our spiritual void as a nation, the extent to which we are disconnected from our land and disconnected from the value of life. Food is sacred and Food Shift is working to bring back that awareness into American culture. http://www.foodshift.net

  • Nancy Loomis

    I really value your topic today. Recently am more available to cook more healthy and ecologically and economically. It is a fun challenge and feel good about the effort we’re putting in. (regarding food waste – Raise A Garden – you tend not to waste food you have grown yourself, it is too precious to you.)

  • Another Mike

    Freeze your leftovers! Bread freezes very well — when I buy a Vietnamese baguette I cut it into sandwich lengths and freeze it. Ziplock bags have a space to write the name and date of freezing on it.

    As far as produce goes: try to only buy what you will eat in a week.

  • Julia

    I try to avoid the cheaper “Big Box Stores” (not to name names) because it’s inevitable that food will be thrown away. And really….are we saving money by shopping there?

  • Cathy

    I’m someone who doesn’t cook. I’ve tried over and over and just don’t enjoy it. We get our take out from quality places and pay attention to the food we’re eating. But I’m wondering if there are better foods to get or avoid even in more responsible restaurants and delis due to for example, the way the food needs to be stored in a commercial kitchen, etc, that may not be more apparent to the public.

  • Bernice

    Meat turns brown very quickly in the fridge. Does this mean it is not safe?

    • Another Mike

      Does it smell bad? Does the texture feel different?
      Meat browns due to oxidation. Whole pieces of beef should be good for three-to-five days. If you’re not going to cook it that soon, freeze it.

      One thing to do is buy a refrigerator thermometer, and make sure the fridge temperature is below 40 degrees.

  • Diana

    Supper swaps not only save time and money they also reduce waste in the kitchen.
    When I make a meal for my group of 3 families, I use larger quantities of fewer foods,
    so i don’t have partially used condiment jars, leftover veggies, etc. The dinners that get delivered to me are already cooked, so again, less food that languishes in the refrigerator.

    • Dana Frasz

      Thanks for posting. I’d love for you to share your experience with supper swaps on the Food Shift blog. Contact us to learn more. http://www.foodshift.net

  • Meg Christolini

    If you live in San Francisco, look into an app called instacart for food delivery. It allows me to maintain an almost empty fridge and order what I need to make meals for the day or evening. I simply order my food before leaving work, set a delivery time and prep it when I get home. I find it saves me money because I don’t throw as much out. Good is purchased from the store of your choice and delivery tines are most of the day and evening.

    Google shopping express is another similar option that might be mote broadly avaliable. Also Task Rabbit.

    • Dana Frasz

      Hi Meg, good solution for reducing food waste but what kind of packaging and waste is created from the growth of take out options like this? And what kind of resources are being used to deliver food all over town? It’s tough to tackle these issues holistically and these are questions that we are asking within the food recovery space too. As we aim to reduce waste what other problems are we contributing too? Can we encourage more companies to provide glass reusable containers like Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley? Can people start bringing their own containers for take out and doggie bags?

  • I live in an intentional community in the North Bay Area. There are
    16 adults and each of us cooks one night a month (Monday through
    Thursday nights) and I get an organic wonderful meal ever night of the
    work week. When I first moved to the community eight years ago I noticed
    that I started saving hundreds of dollars a month on food and that I
    was not throwing much away. Of course we have chickens and gardens and
    we compost everything but still that “food/waste shame” is there!

    I am also working on a book on how to create community on your own block
    and food is a major part of it. It not only saves huge amounts of time
    and money it supports people with time, love, connection, and helping
    others. We grow in our diversity and our compassion and we eat really
    Thanks for the show!

    • Dana Frasz

      Suzie, sounds like a great community! Check out http://www.foodshift.net to learn more about reducing food waste. If you’re interested, we’d love to have you write a blog post for our blog!

      • Thanks, I’ll check out your site. I’m happy to write a blog post also.

        • Dana Frasz

          Great! 300-500 words. Photo needed and 2 sentence bio. You can send to dana at foodshift dot net.

  • Marty Melville

    I was listening to your broadcast and I was thinking what is really wasted is at hotels that serve banquets. What do they do with the food. I have always heard they can not give it away because of liability.. I live in Marin county and my church and I get bread from Panera and bring it to people in need thenext

    day.. I would like to do this with restaurants or big hotels does anyone out there know anything about getting the hotels and restaurants to do this . If so please post . thank you Marty Melville Marin county

  • trite

    I have a carrier on wheels I use to go to grocery store. Suggest this sort of thing could be used to take shopping on bus.

  • SFreader

    For the first ten years of our family unit’s life my husband and I worked (more than) full time, which meant that all household chores, including grocery shopping and dinner planning, had to be squeezed into one Saturday. Very often the following week wouldn’t go as planned – a last-minute crisis at work requiring an all-nighter, kids getting sick, etc. – and the noble dinner plans made the weekend before would have to be modified (“let’s just order some pizza if we want to get to bed at all tonight”). A lot, and I mean, A LOT of food in our refrigerator would sit untouched for much longer that was anticipated, spoil and eventually be thrown away. Now I stay at home with the kids and I can’t remember the last time a food item went into a landfill, as we no longer overbuy food, since I have the luxury of running to the store almost daily and cook my purchases that same evening. I wonder to what extent the modern Americans’ very busy lives (long work hours, long commute, heavy involvement in kids’ schools and activities, etc.) contribute to the problem of food waste?

  • As a single person, one way I reduce food waste is to keep things simple. I have a simple diet which means there aren’t too many things in the refrigerator to keep track of. Also, I tend to eat out a lot for salads. Salads from some restaurants aren’t too expensive and have lots of variety that is made fresh each day. Easier than keeping lots of fresh produce at home for a single person.

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