April is Earth Month, and one of the ways we're celebrating it at Second Harvest is by thinking about ways to reduce our food waste. Up to 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That's an average of 400 pounds of food per person each year. It's expensive, and when so many people are hungry, it's a waste of valuable resources. Growing, processing, transporting, and disposing that uneaten food has an annual estimated cost of $218 billion, costing a household of four an average of $1,800 annually.
So what can you do? The solutions might be easier than you think. Second Harvest Dietitian Christina Geschke-Lagrou, MS, RDN has a few tips anyone can do at home or at the grocery store.
De-mystify food product and sell-by dates
Food product dates can be confusing, which can result in unnecessary food waste. The common food product labeling phrases include Sell-By, Best if Used By/Before, and Use-By dates. The Sell-By date tells grocery stores or retailers how long they should display the product for sale for inventory purposes and it is not a consumer food safety date. The Best if Used By/Before date indicates how long a product will be of its best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase by or food safety date.
The Use-By date is the date in which the last use of the product is recommended to ensure best quality of the product. It is not a food safety date except for when this date is used on infant formulas.
Many foods can be consumed past the Best-By dates. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) foods not showing signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated, or consumed beyond the labeled Best if Used By Date. Learn more at the USDA website.
Prevent fruit and vegetables from spoiling too fast
Purchase only what you will be able to use for the week to ensure less waste. Plan your meals to make sure you don’t buy more than you need. Learn how to properly store your fruits and vegetables to extend the life and prevent spoilage and which fruits and vegetables should not be stored together. Wash produce before use. Learn more about which produce stays good the longest and how to store it here.