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December 2020 | Food Waste and Loss During COVID-19

An overview of coronavirus's impact on food

Happy holy crap how is it December already. Last year this time, my fridge was full and my heart was even more full, spending the holidays with my friends and family. This year... lol.

What does make me happy, though, is writing about this month's topic: food loss and waste during COVID-19. It's ironic because it's not a happy topic, but it made me feel a lot better after understanding why we have the problems we have.

Also, I've been inspired to write about this because of one of my new favorite newsletters: Below the Fold. They cover important stories that don't make the headlines. (Yup, like food waste.)

Here's what I'm telling you in our lil fact snack:

  • what - quick recap of why food waste matters socially and environmentally
  • how - how it's gotten worse during COVID
  • who - stages/groups involved in modern-day food production
  • why - my explanation on why we're in the mess we're in, pandemic aside

But first, a request: email me and tell me how COVID has changed your relationship with food. This doesn't have to be related to sustainability unless it's relevant to you — I'm just curious!

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Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
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"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

Read: how food production actually works and why

If you want to read this week's recommended article and skip my commentary, here it is.

When we wrote about holiday food waste last year, I discovered a 2016 article claiming turkey - just Thanksgiving turkey - is expected to have an annual waste amount of 200 million pounds. It's $293 million bucks in food waste. So please, gobble it before it gobbles the landfills.

Quick recap of why food waste matters (Source: Holiday food waste edition)

  • Food loss and waste generates 8% of global emissions
  • Reducing food waste is the #1 opportunity area to solve climate change
  • A THIRD of the world's food is wasted or lost each year, an amount which could solve world hunger
  • Food waste is a major burden on our fresh water and land. Could we run out of farmable land by 2050? (stay tuned to our REFLECT module on 12/23 to find out)

Source: https://www.refed.com/?sort=economic-value-per-ton

Highlighted article: How food waste has gotten worse during COVID (Source: the problem of food waste)

  • Supply chains have been disrupted by workers getting sick. Processing plants closed and the animals... were just slaughtered and discarded by the thousands. Thousands.
  • Farmers couldn't afford to harvest and process products that they couldn't sell. So they had to plow over edible crops and throw out literal lakes of milk — up to 3.7 million gallons a day
  • Excess food couldn't be distributed to shelters safely, restaurant demand went way down, and more. The graphic below explains who's involved

The stages of food production (Source: COVID's impact along the food supply chain)

Why we're in such a food mess (Source: Farmers are destroying mountains of food)

  • Capitalism
  • No, seriously, it's extractive capitalism. Government policies condone food monopolies so our food production is controlled by a handful of corporate executives, who are incentivized to over-produce food

Listen: What is monoculture and how is it harming us?

In this Listen module, I'm sharing a 2-min video on sustainable food production. All you have to do today is watch it by clicking below!

A thumbnail of our linked video: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/08/21/the-importance-of-sustainable-food-chains.html
https://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/08/21/the-importance-of-sustainable-food-chains.html

Check it out — it's only 2 minutes long and it tells you:

  • What is monoculture? Why does it come with a steep price for our environment?
  • How much chemicals we (via monoculture) use in food production. Spoiler: 3.5M tons in 2020.
  • How can we offset the 38% of energy consumed in food systems?

Act: 6 ways to fight food waste, including drinking butts

Here's what to do to fight food waste. Pick 1-2 that work best for you:

  1. Donate $5 monthly to CIWF and make one of the most high-impact donations possible. If you don't already know, Effective Altruism combines the most effective ways you can make a difference. One of their top causes for donations is animal welfare, and they've highlighted Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). They've successfully passed cage-free egg policies at the largest grocery stores in the world; you can read more about their impact and donate here. Give $5 monthly!
  2. Plan your meals intentionally. My roommates and I write down all our meals for the week in a notebook and what ingredients we need, down to the bell pepper. We usually budget for 5 meals + sandwich and salad ingredients and we use it all up before our next grocery trip. If this isn't your thing, use Ends + Stems for zero-waste meal plans. They even give you recipes when you tell them 2 ingredients you have in your fridge!
  3. Start your own backyard garden (a perfect COVID project). Here's a quick guest post by Pangolin.Green explaining how it's actually a lot easier and cheaper than it seems. I learned that you can even turn food scraps into lil crops! If you've already started a COVID garden, reply with your pics or tag us @soapboxproject on Instagram. Garden pics make me smile.
  1. Save the tiny bites of food you have left. We seriously have tiny Tupperwares (this pack is 9 bucks) to save the last morsels of food we couldn't finish and we ALWAYS eat it the next day. It's like a fun treat for future you!
  2. Drink butts. I can't make the Nicki Minaj joke I want to make because my mom subscribes to Changeletter, but... anyway Toast Ale turns bread butts into beer! Perfect for holiday gifting, too.
  1. Reorganize your fridge every two weeks until you stop wasting food.  This has been the biggest game-changer for me. It comes with instructions! I will literally hop on a 5 min video call with anyone who wants to see my fridge if it helps.

    Add this reminder to your calendar by clicking the button below. You can also click the image.

I highly recommend checking out the food waste actions we published last December for 9 more actions and 3 recipes. The recipes were inspired by an IG poll of what our readers said they wasted most of. That's it for today once you save the reminder.

Reflect: How will we feed 9 billion people by 2050? 

Today, I want you to check outNational Geographic's 5-step plan on how we're going to feed 9 billion people.

☃️I know most of y'all are checked out so here's what Nat Geo's up to. They say, "By 2050 we’ll need to feed two billion more people. How can we do that without overwhelming the planet?"

Five-step plan, with two actions you can take at the end:

  1. Freeze agriculture's footprint. We have to stop our age-old practice of destroying forests and grasslands to find space for food production. It's detrimental and it doesn't even create food security.

  2. Grow more on farms we've got. We can target the "yield gap", which means increasing yields on less-productive farmlands with improved farming practices and technology.

  3. Use resources more efficiently. Getting smarter about water and chemicals and taking advantage of precision methods will go a long way.

  4. Shift diets. The dream is making sure crops end up in our tummies instead of being fed to livestock, and an efficient path is changing what we eat. Going vegan is a whole thing these days — my take is that if you can do it, you should. If it's too much for you right now, just start by cutting out beef!

  5. Reduce waste. That's what we've been up to, fam. Congrats.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google