The United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a better future for everyone. Goal 12 focuses on sustainable consumption and production patterns. (High School Insider)
Los Altos High School

Opinion: Reduce, reuse, recycle … food?

Goal 12 of the UN’s Envision2030 initiative is responsible consumption and production. One of the targets of the UN’s goal is to reduce waste “through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.” Food waste in America is an epidemic and one large area of the economy where nations and especially America can do much better.

In a 2018 TEDx Talk, Patrick Bultema, the CEO of one of America’s largest marketplaces for surplus food said that 40% of food grown in the United States is thrown out. This is an astonishing waste of resources and money. With the amount of families and individuals that go hungry daily it would seem logical that this surplus food could be put to better use. But why is there such a surplus?

According to basic economics and the concept of supply and demand, there should be an equilibrium between the two competing forces. However, this does not seem to be the case. In the United States, decades of government subsidies and support have artificially affected basic economics.

But the average citizen and business can help on the supply side of the equation. Instead of throwing away unsold food — donate it! Donation is a win-win … it saves our landfills, helps the hungry, and makes better use of an important resource.

The waste is typically seen at grocery stores where the unsold food rots away on the shelves. Instead of throwing away soon-to-expire food, stores should be encouraged to donate or distribute the food to poor and hungry families. While the food may have not been purchased by consumers, this does not necessarily mean nobody could benefit from the food. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us there is an unmet need when it comes to feeding families.

In August 2020, about one in 10 Americans said they didn’t have enough food in the last seven days, according to data published by the Census Bureau.

The pandemic, especially, caused more than 28% of Americans to be at risk for food insecurity, according to an article published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2020.

Donating food to those in need also has the added benefit of saving our environment by diverting use of landfills and preventing climate changing gases (methane). While changing behavior of stores, consumers, and businesses is never easy the simple act of reducing food waste and redistributing to those in need is a win-win for everyone.