If you asked husband and wife Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustmeyer what they were having for dinner, their answer would be whatever is lying around…literally.
For six months, the couple ate only “wasted” food — that which was discarded, considered “ugly” or incorrectly labelled — to demonstrate the food waste problem in America.
In a country where one in five children is food insecure, about 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. isn’t eaten — resulting in a loss of $165 billion, according to Good. That’s why the couple set out on the venture, which resulted in their documentary “Just Eat It.”
During the process, the couple was surprised to find out that individuals, not industry, are the major contributors to food waste. In the average household, about one quarter of the food bought isn’t eaten, and about 50 percent of all food waste can be traced to individuals whether through the disposal of uneaten groceries, uncooked food or unfinished meals at restaurants and at home.
So, what’s the main cause of this waste? For Baldwin and Rustmeyer, it all comes back to food date labeling. While these dates tend to be viewed as definitive, they’re actually guidelines for stock rotation and peak freshness, not expiration. In fact, an expiration date is only valid for a few products.
Other large sources of waste are restaurants and schools, where food is distributed in large amounts and rarely finished, and distribution. While some states, like California, have an overabundance of products in food banks, it can’t be efficiently and cost-effectively transported to states that don’t.
All hope isn’t lost, though, as Baldwin and Rustmeyer have simple waste-reducing steps to follow. First, trust your five senses, not the date label. Second, value everything you own. Third, save food in what Rustmeyer calls an “Eat Me First” drawer.
“That’s a bin in your fridge where you put things that need to be included in the next meal,” Rustmeyer tells Good.
So, before you throw out that food, take a break from reliance on the date label and put a little more trust in your senses.