Archives for November 2013

Waste at Each Stage of the Food Supply Chain

How could there be so much waste within the food industry and what can we do about it? The report “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill goes into great detail analyzing each segment of the food supply chain. I’ll hit the highlights but I encourage you to read the full study which is very well-written and easily digested by any reader.

I summarized the major facts in Waste Not, Want Not but wanted to share more on the types of loss and possible solutions at each step in the food supply chain.waste can

Losses in farming fall under two categories: food never harvested and food that is lost between harvest and sale. Factors which affect whether food is harvested include pest damage, weather, market price, food scares such as salmonellalabor shortages, and consumer demand. “Feeding America estimates that more than 6 billion pounds of food goes unharvested or unsold every year.” [Read more…]

Conversations with a Founder – Reducing Waste from Farm to Table

The report behind the post Waste Not, Want Not is both upsetting and exciting. On the one hand you have a very real, very depressing situation in America where we lose 40% of the food we grow and people are legitimately going hungry. On the other hand, knowing this problem exists and knowing there are solutions to reduce such waste is exciting because there are great possibilities for innovation within the food industry. The problems are known and the solutions are attainable. As well such innovation is favorable to nonprofits, governments, and businesses alike. Reducing waste saves money so improvements are likely to be widely accepted. I’d heard Dr. Giles mention how his plans for the proposed Rural System could improve efficiency so I decided to revisit the topic with him.

Me: Dr. Giles, I recently shared with you the report on food waste in America which you felt was disappointing though not surprising since you were already aware of the need for reducing waste. Can you tell me again how Rural System proposes to improve on this problem?IMG_7695

Dr. Giles: Absolutely, the concept of waste reduction is a central theme in Rural System. You see I’ve been saying for years that reducing waste (or “loss costs”) is the key to widening the profit margin in the future. Production, especially agriculturally speaking, has been pushed to threshold meaning there’s little room to improve further upon what we can produce. [Read more…]

Waste Not, Want Not

spoiled foodThis American idiom literally means that if you do not waste anything, you will have enough. In the US 49 million Americans (that’s 1 in 6) struggle with food security, and millions more suffer from the lack of quality, healthy food. The problem is not in our food production. We grow enough food to feed our citizens but according to a recent report, America is losing up to 40% of its food from farm to fork to landfill. We are wasting and we are left wanting. If you are skeptic about this number, please check out the statements from the USDA supporting these findings and their associated initiative, the US Food Waste Challenge.

Some of the hard-hitting facts in the report:

  • 40% of food in the US goes uneaten, equivalent to 20lbs of food per person, per month.
  • Getting food to our tables eats up 10% of the total US energy budget, uses 50% of US land, and swallows 80% of freshwater consumed in the US.
  • Food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year.
  • The average American today wastes up to 50% more than Americans in the 1970’s. [Read more…]

Hats Off for the Skilled Land Force

Two Roofers

A student and a supervisor rebuilding a roof at Warren Wilson College.

Between the intensive sampling called for in managing alpha units and all the work of implementing prescriptions, Rural System would need to employ a great many people. This “Land Force” would be comprised of interested and skilled local workers, and would hopefully attract budding tradespeople back to rural places. Some people might think “oh, that won’t be hard. There are plenty of people who need jobs right?” Wrong.  In reality, skilled trades are the number one most difficult job to fill in America and worldwide. There is a subtle prejudice and ignorance prevalent in American society today, and it has everything to do with our now-flooded higher education system. [Read more…]

An Inclusive Future: Managing the Rural Ecosystem

Pesapane_Uganda_2013 (366)Standing in a forest you are surrounded by movement. Even as you still your breath you can hear the leaves on the ground twitch and rustle, and the green around you waves in the wind. Imagine you can feel the ground beneath your toes. Imagine sweet pine scent kisses your nose. Are you separate from this place in this moment? Or are you, too, a natural being? [Read more…]