Weigh Your Waste: Confronting Food Waste at Berkeley

Food waste is illogical. It doesn’t make sense when it comes to protecting our wallets, protecting the earth, or protecting the security of people around the world. So how do we stop it?

On October 2, The Cal Dining Sustainability team hosted their first Weigh Your Waste night of the semester. This event puts wasted food on display, as the sustainability team asked students to separate their waste into edible, inedible, liquid and napkin waste bins so that all items could be weighed throughout the night. At the same time, the sustainability team collected plates that were full of uneaten food and displayed them on a “waste buffet” table.

Cal Dining has already made efforts to reduce the food waste that is sent to landfills by composting, removing trays from the dining halls, and, beginning this year, donating all uneaten prepared food to the company Copia for redistribution to bay area non-profits. You can even ask for a taste spoon at the dining halls to sample your food before being served large portions.

However, on Monday, October 2, this was how much  EDIBLE food was thrown away in the dining halls:

Crossroads: 244 lbs

Foothill: 76 lbs

Clark Kerr: 43 lbs

 Cafe 3: 105 lbs

According to the UN food calculator, which assumes that 1.2 pounds of food is a full meal, that is the equivalent of 404 meals.

That’s 404 meals

Based on survey results, the top two reasons people wasted food were because they either took too much or did not like the taste of the food. Luckily, there are new solutions being implemented to face these issues, such as taking sample spoons, or allowing students to leave comments about the food on comment boards in the dining halls. The Cal Dining Sustainability team noted that hamburger buns and soups were the main items being wasted on October 2.
It is estimated that a third of all food that is produced in the world ends up being thrown away. But how do we make sense of this statistic in an environmental, economic, and humanitarian context? Especially when we contrast this statement with data that shows around 870 million people go hungry every year, and nearly 30% of students across the UCs are food insecure?
Food waste is simply illogical. It does not make sense that Americans throw out nearly 20 pounds of food per person each month. Essentially, they are throwing out the money it took to purchase 20 pounds of food, or 80 pounds of food in an average household. This data also does not make sense when we consider the facts reported by the UN: if food waste were its own country, the methane emissions it would produce would be the third largest in the world, behind only America and China. What that means is that people around the world are not only threatened by the lack of food that is distributed to them, they are also threatened by the climate change impacts that occur as a result of this uneaten food.

So what can we do?

Even small changes can truly help you reduce your food waste. For example, planning out your meals for the week when you’re cooking at home, taking smaller portions, not shying away from “imperfect” produce, getting creative with the ingredients in your fridge, or donating food after meetings all help reduce the waste and emissions created by food waste.
What’s one way you can reduce your food waste this month?

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