Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Feeding People, Not Landfills

Dec 04, 2013 01:32AM

America wastes 40 percent of its food, according to the National Resources Defense Council. That’s enough food to fill the Rose Bowl in California every day. 40 percent of our food equals 72 billion pounds of food per year or $165 billion per year. Food waste consumes the 25 percent of fresh water that is wasted on growing this food; the four percent of oil used to transport this food; and the 25 percent of methane gas which is released from this food. When you consider the number of countries struggling to find fresh water and the energy crisis looming over our heads, these resources are priceless. At the same time, the EPA says that hunger is one of America’s most complex and serious health problems and Feeding America estimates that one in six American families go hungry every day.

“America doesn’t have a food shortage problem”, says Ben Simon, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Food Recovery Network, “it has a food distribution problem.” Food Recovery Network was founded two years ago with a simple but significant goal; to reduce food waste by feeding it to people. Of course, when they say “food waste”, they aren’t talking about the scraps off your plate. Food Recovery Network’s mission is to unite students at colleges and universities to fight food waste and hunger by recovering surplus perishable food from their campuses and surrounding communities that would otherwise go to waste and donating it to people in need. Since its launch in September of 2011, they have successfully started 34 official chapters across the U.S., and donated over of 200,000 pounds of food or over 160,000 meals. With such motivated students around the country, it’s no wonder that food recovery is starting to make its appearance outside of the school system as well. Montgomery County, Maryland has officially launched the Montgomery County Food Recovery Initiative. This initiative aims to stop all food waste in Montgomery County, with a focus on recovering surplus food from food all around the county. The hope is that this initiative will inspire other counties to recover all of their surplus food also, which would prevent millions of pounds of food from going to waste in Maryland and feed thousands of Americans.

Climate change is a factor that is often overlooked when food recovery is mentioned, yet food waste is the second largest contributor to methane gas in our atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is considered over 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. To put it simply, methane is much more effective at trapping heat. Methane is released from organic matter as it decomposes and with food waste being the number one item filling up America’s landfills; it’s not very surprising that over 20 percent of all our methane emissions come from food waste.

We can’t afford to waste freshwater; we can’t afford to create more methane or burn more fossil fuels; we can’t afford to let one more mouth go unfed, when we have the power to change it.

If you are passionate about environmental and social issues in your community and want to know more about how you can fight food waste and hunger, contact Cara Mayo at [email protected] or visit


Global Brief
Health Brief