Solutions to Food Waste

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It has become more prevalent in the news these days, especially as COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our daily lives and that is an understanding of our dysfunctional food system.   For most of us consumers, we go about our daily routines and barely consider the externalized impacts of our choices, let alone the rippling effect our choices have on the rest of the world.  It is harder these days, however, to bury your head in the proverbial sand and pretend you are not part of the problem.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer to be part of the solution.  Here are 3 food systems solutions starting to take root across America worth paying attention to.
  1. A technological solution to food spoilage.  In our current system, much of the produce grown is picked prior to ripening so that it can make it into the supply chain before spoiling.  Especially in America, we are accustomed to seeing bright, shiny, perfectly formed produce piled high at the local grocery store.  There is a limited time frame for which this produce remains as such, until recently.  A company based out of Santa Barbara is making headlines with a new solution to food spoilage.  Apeel Sciences has developed a product that reduces water loss and slows oxidation by adding an odorless and tasteless plant-derived coating to the surface of fresh produce. In doing so, shelf life is extended and food waste is reduced, which is good news for the planet, increases profitability for growers, and enables consumers to store fresh food longer.
  2. Food Co-ops, Food Hubs and locally sourced food.  The global food supply chain relies on a number of factors that have little to do with sun and soil these days.  There are market price fluctuations, price speculations, natural disasters and now with COVID-19, it is more apparent how delicate are the ties that bind the links in the chain.  Multinational corporations have turned the very natural act of growing food into an industrial-scale economic operation that produces commodities rather than simple, wholesome food.  Movements that have roots in community social justice activism, bio regionalism and regenerative agricultural practices are looking to simplified solutions to system that has outgrown its utility.  Solutions such as food co-ops, food hubs and farmers markets support the purpose of producing and marketing goods or products owned collectively by members who share in the benefits rather than line pockets of wealthy shareholders.
  3. Resiliency is the new sustainability.  For much of the 21 century, scholars spoke to sustainable development practices that allowed us to live within our means; to keep some level of equilibrium as we grew nations and further developed our natural resources into places and products that brought comfort and convenience to human kind.  But we’ve come to the threshold of these systems, economically, socially and environmentally – we are at a tipping point, which many scientist believe will usher in unknown consequences for generations to come.  Sadly, 99% of all the species identified to inhabit that Earth have gone extinct and some foretell the 6th great mass extinction event unfolding right before our eyes.  And yet, there hope on the horizon.  Technology, conservation and global awareness are converging in an unprecedented time to help humans transform the way to we live on the planet.  By recognizing that we humans are part of these natural systems and do not have dominion over them, we can find a means to adapt to and recover from major disturbances as we reconcile with immediate dis-equilibrium of this pivot, we just might evolve enough to sustain humanity on our productive but fragile and finite planet.
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