Food waste is one of my often-tackled topics, and something I frequently address in my own kitchen, too. Now, the Huffington Post is taking on this important social and environmental issue with Reclaim, "an unprecedented campaign to highlight the scale of food waste in the United States." As Reclaim's introductory post says and this video shows, we waste an amazing amount of food.
I spoke with Jo Confino, Huffington Posts' Executive Editor, Impact & Innovation, who is overseeing Reclaim. He wants to help people see the connection between their love of food and the responsibilities that come along with that relationship.
"We need to build people's awareness," said Confino. "Most movements in society start off by a small amount of people who start to become active and build it into the public consciousness."
Reclaim is bringing food waste into the pubic consciousness in a variety of ways.
- Educating consumers on the many aspects of food waste: how it socially, environmentally and economically impacts us on both global and personal scales
- Encouraging people to sign the "What the Fork Are You Doing with Your Produce Walmart?" petition that asks Walmart to sell imperfect-looking fruit and vegetables that normally go to waste
- Launching a 30-day challenge to help consumers reduce their own waste with shopping and cooking tips "ranging from how to make stock from scraps to transforming your stale cookies into an epic pie." One of the first tips is how to get more mileage out of olive pits by using them to infuse olive oil with more flavor.
- Working to get retailers to agree to a common voluntary code for food date labeling that could then be adopted by Congress for a national standard. Food date labeling is often arbitrary, causing tons of food to be thrown away because consumers falsely believe the food is no longer safe to eat. (Even the USDA encourages consumers to ignore sell-by dates on some foods.)
This is a long-term project.
"The media can be guilty of starting big and then a month later walking away," said Confino. Reclaim organizers say they are committed to not falling into that common practice.
This is just the start of tackling different aspects of waste. In the fall, they'll be working with schools and college campuses to address the food waste at educational institutions. Eventually, the focus on food waste will move into other areas that consumers can get involved in like fashion and electronic waste.
The campaign started with food because people can connect with it intellectually and emotionally. "In many cases," Confino said, "people might care about an issue but it doesn't relate to their daily life. But with food, we are so connected." He hopes to further that connection that people have with their food and make people aware of the relationship between what they eat and the food system as a whole.
People are already paying attention. The Reclaim videos that Huffington Post are producing with this campaign received more than a quarter of a million views in the first two days. Many of the videos are practical, like this one featuring Summer Rayne Oakes.
I'm thrilled with the Reclaim campaign. I believe food waste is an important issue that needs to be addressed. On a personal level, the money that individuals and families waste when 40 percent of the groceries they buy go in the trash is ridiculous. On a social level, when so many people are hungry around the globe, wasting food is like "stealing from the poor," as the pope has claimed. And, on an environmental level, the amount of food that's produced that is never eaten is damaging.
I will be paying close attention to Reclaim and using it to add inspiration to the commitment I already have to reduce as much of the food waste in my home as possible. I will also be taking any actions, like signing the petition for Walmart, that I'm able to take. I encourage you to pay attention also to the incredible amount of food we waste, why it's important to reduce that amount, and how you can get involved.