Recently, we blogged about the daunting issue of food waste in the U.S. As significant as the problem is, it’s not the only food-related challenge our nation faces. Food insecurity — the very real fear of not having enough food to eat three healthful meals a day — affects one in seven Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The 10 benchmarks the USDA applies to determine levels of food insecurity are heart-wrenching, and they include worries that families will run out of food, actually running out of food, not being able to afford a balanced meal, reducing the size and frequency of meals, hunger and weight loss. Among food insecure households, approximately 69 percent reported experiencing seven or more of those qualifying conditions. USDA research also shows that low-income households and households with children suffer disproportionately from food insecurity.
Meanwhile, about 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. goes to waste, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It’s not really a stretch of the imagination to think reducing food waste could go a long way toward improving food security for everyone.
We can all begin to make a difference by first looking at some of the reasons why food gets wasted. As food retailers and suppliers, some of the factors are out of your control; you can’t affect production, harvesting or processing losses. However, the NRDC says packaging and transportation are significant sources of food waste, and those are areas where you can make a difference.
“Proper transport and handling of food are critical throughout the supply chain,” the NRDC says in its report Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.
Better packaging like RPCs offer a cost-effective way to reduce food waste.
Suppliers and distributors can make an impact by improving the packaging they use to transport items such as produce, meat and eggs. Perishable items that arrive at a grocery store damaged or broken can’t be sold and will go to waste. Reducing shrink can be as simple as transporting product in RPCs that excel at protecting food from damage and spoilage.
Retailers can also benefit from better food packaging. Shoppers don’t want to buy bruised apples or cracked eggs, but RPCs help ensure product moves from the farm to the truck to the shelves without harm — ensuring less waste and shrink. Using RPCs on display reduces the amount of handling and potential damage, so product looks appealing longer, and retailers can keep items on the shelves right up until the sell date. Finally, conducting an in-depth supply chain analysis will help identify areas in which retailers can improve efficiency, reduce costs and minimize waste.
Of course, there’s a lot more to be done to reduce food waste and food insecurity in the U.S., including educating consumers to buy only what they need, and that “ugly” produce is just as nutritious and delicious as the pretty products they’re used to seeing in the supermarket. Still, reducing waste throughout the distribution process is a good place to start.