COLUMN: How to combat food waste


Nearly $218 billion of food is wasted in America each year. While Bloomington may take steps to help combat the amount of waste they’re producing, there’s always room for improvement.

Often times when people think of food waste they imagine families throwing away plates of half-eaten spaghetti or restaurants throwing away their leftover bread at the end of the night. While that does add to the problem, it’s an even deeper issue than just that. 

Food waste at the production level causes about 72 billion pounds of waste, and that alone doesn’t include any of the food that is thrown away by people in their homes. 

Bloomington claimed in 2017 that by 2022 we will be a “zero-waste community.” While this is a significantly bold statement to make, IU itself has taken steps and partnered with Hilltop Gardens, a local nature center that encourages youth to learn about gardening, to compost leftover food in different dining halls on campus

While the dining courts have made multiple other steps in the right direction, workers at dining courts consistently detail just how much food and ingredients get thrown out at the end of the day.

Whether it be the restaurants throwing out perfectly good food, farmers throwing out crops or grocery stores disposing of unsold produce, it’s all contributing to the overall issue. 

The billions of pounds of food that are being wasted could go to feeding starving people in our country and other developing countries. This is also hurting our environment due to the burning of fuel and use of water that is used to produce food which then goes to waste. 

Restaurants are often weary to donate leftover food because they fear someone may get sick from it and they may face legal consequences. However, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects these businesses from liability should anyone end up being harmed from the product that was donated in good faith. 

This theoretically should allow all businesses to donate their leftover goods to nonprofits. However, even in Bloomington, we know that is not always the case. 

Chain restaurants that exist here in Bloomington such as Panera Bread and Starbucks are two well-known ones that donate large amounts of their leftovers to local charities. If other businesses follow in their footsteps, and if IU dining halls do more to combat this issue, it is possible we could eventually become a “zero-waste” community. 

If nothing changes, food waste will continue to grow. This is not only a production issue. Focusing more on our portion sizes, what we throw out and how we view produce will lead to a positive change in our world's struggles with food waste.

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