Awareness of Food Waste Can Help Us Appreciate Holiday Meals

Bryce Hannibal, Texas A&M University

Americans celebrate the winter holidays in many ways, which typically include an abundance of food, drinks, desserts – and waste. Food waste is receiving increasing attention from managers, activists, policymakers and scholars, who call it a global social problem. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, wealthy nations waste nearly as much food every year as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

Efforts to reduce food waste tend to focus on consumption practices, with less attention to the production and distribution side. But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a large proportion of food loss and waste in the United States occurs at the farm-to-retail level, with about 133 billion pounds of food available at retailers going uneaten.

In a recent study, my colleague Arnold Vedlitz and I surveyed nearly 1,400 Americans about their views on food waste. We wanted to know what the public understood about the role that intermediary organizations such as grocery stores, cafeterias and restaurants play in this problem. We also wanted to see whether concern about food waste reflected awareness of the water-energy-food nexus – the interconnections between food production, energy and water.

Office of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree

Organizational food waste

Organizations lose or waste food for many reasons. Grocery stores seek to keep shelves full and offer visually appealing produce, which can lead to over-ordering and throwing out items with cosmetic flaws. The Agriculture Department estimates that between 11 and 12 percent of fresh foods and meats are discarded or lost from U.S. retail outlets and supermarkets.

Restaurants and cafeterias also contribute significantly through inventory losses, food preparation waste, food scraps not suitable for serving, foods prepared but not served, and foods consumers purchase but do not finish.

We used a nationally representative survey to see whether individuals were concerned about organizational food waste, and would support policies intended to reduce it. In response to the question “How concerned are you about the amount of food wasted by grocery stores, restaurants and cafeterias?” approximately 75 percent of respondents said they were were concerned, very concerned or extremely concerned.

Our results also showed that women, older people, members of lower-income households and those who leaned politically liberal all expressed higher levels of concern about food wasted by organizations.

Interconnections between food, energy and water

Next we examined whether concern about food waste was tied to use of other natural resources. Growing, producing, transporting, treating and disposing of food consumes significant quantities of energy and water.

Producing a typical Thanksgiving meal, for example, requires corn and wheat to feed turkeys; acres of farmland to grow vegetables such as beans and potatoes; water to irrigate the produce and hydrate the turkeys; and energy to pump water, harvest crops and transport the food to consumers.

When food is wasted, these resources are also wasted when they could have been put to better use elsewhere. In a previous study, we examined the extent to which individuals understand or recognize the interconnections between water, energy and food, and created a “nexus awareness index.” Awareness of these interconnections means that people recognize that food, energy and water are all intertwined at some level.

We used this awareness index in our new study to determine whether recognizing food-water and food-energy connections influenced respondents’ concern about food waste. Our results showed with very high confidence that higher awareness of these linkages was correlated with higher concern about food waste.

To explore what actions people would take or support to reduce food waste, we focused on two policy options: building compost facilities for large-scale commercial and private residential use, and increasing state or municipal licensing fees for organizations that do not develop and follow approved food waste reduction plans. Respondents who reported high concern about food waste were willing to support waste reduction policies, and those with higher awareness of food-water and food-energy links showed the strongest support for both policies.

Avoiding holiday food waste

We draw two primary conclusions from this study. First, highlighting the amounts of wasted water, energy and money embedded in food waste may help food waste issues reach a wider audience and build support for action.

Second, increasing awareness and concern about food waste may increase action and behavioral changes that reduce waste. Researchers have long been concerned about findings that show a disconnect between people’s intentions and their corresponding actions. Some food waste research examining this issue shows that intentions to reduce food waste have a mixed and generally weak impact on actual consumer practices.

Reducing food waste on a broad scale is a significant challenge. Our results suggest that increasing concern about food waste may motivate people to be more willing to act on this problem. Others suggest that regular reminders and nudges for consumers may be effective. Intentional, or purposeful, consumption with waste in mind – for example, showing people how to take waste into account as they shop for food – may also help. Best practices will likely differ among various groups of people and geographic regions.

Holiday meals are a good time to be mindful of food waste. Many are served in people’s homes, and most hosts wouldn’t dream of throwing away perfectly good leftovers instead of using them the next day. Although restaurants typically throw away leftovers that consumers purchase but don’t finish, many customers will take theirs home with a little encouragement. Especially once they know how much energy and water it took to grow those cranberries and fatten the turkey.The Conversation

Bryce Hannibal, Research Scientist and Lecturer, Texas A&M University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Disgusting Food Museum Opens in Sweden

In general, “don’t yuck other’s yum” is a good advice to follow, but sometimes we still can’t help arguing whether Vegemite is a national treasure or something that shouldn’t qualify as a food. This dilemma is the premise behind Sweden’s new Disgusting Food Museum.

Located in Malmö, the museum features 80 notorious food items from all over the world, with the opportunity to smell and taste some of these “disgusting” things. Australia contributes three items –  the Vegemite spread, musk sticks and witchetty grubs – which are exhibited alongside Sweden’s surstömming or fermented fish, China’s stinky tofu, Thailand’s durian fruit, maggot-infested cheese casu marzu from Sardinia, and more.

“Disgusting Food Museum invites visitors to explore the world of food and challenge their notions of what is and what isn’t edible,” the Museum said on its website. “Could changing our ideas of disgust help us embrace the environmentally sustainable foods of the future?”

The museum will be open until January 27 from Wednesday to Sunday, with a surcharge of 185kr (AU$28) per adult. If you want to take it to another level, you can also do the group tasting experience for 300kr (AU$46) per person.

Brisbane CBD Scores Free Acai Bowls This Monday

The start of the week is always rough – but next week you can cure your Monday blues with wholesome free breakfast at the CBD. Yes, free.

Co-working space company Wework is finally expanding to Brisbane after opening nine locations in Sydney and Melbourne. To celebrate its new space on 310 Edward Street, Wework is bringing a pop-up in Queen Street Mall to give away free acai bowls and cold-pressed coffee on November 19.

The experiential pop-up, which will run from 7 to 11am, will also give you the chance to get an impression of the space and be in the running for a free year-long access to a working spot in the CBD space.

Now you have your Monday morning sorted.

Recipes: Best Pastries

Want to bake something special this weekend? We’ve curated some of the best pastries from all around the world, complete with the recipes. Try them out and thank us later…

Profiteroles by Mon Petit Four

profiteroles mon petit four

Coming from the same family as éclairs, beignet and croquembouche, a profiterole is a choux pastry ball with cream and chocolate sauce. You can serve them warm with freshly piped cream as is, or add a scoop of ice cream on the side.


Mazarin by Bethany Murphy, Better Together

mazarin better together

Hailing from Sweden, mazarin is a small tart with buttery crust, almond filling and beautiful sugar icing on top. You can also use ground almonds in place of almond paste and flour.


Galette by Anisa Sabet

galette anisa sabet

Galette could be described as a lovechild of pie and crusty cake. With the toppings, you can channel your creativity and go any way you want – from fruity (berries, peaches, pears, plums) to sweet (almond, honey, ice cream) and savoury (mushroom, potato, cheese, onion). Make a big one to share or shape the crust for a single portion size – it’s your choice!


Cannoli by My Three Seasons

cannoli my three seasons

Fried pastry dough, ricotta cheese, a touch of chocolate and powdered sugar – what’s not to love? You can make your own cannoli shells from scratch, or get some from the store to fry.


Baklava by Deliciously Yum

Baklava Deliciously Yum

Flaky phyllo sheets! Tasty nut filling! Honey golden brown gorgeousness! You can replace (or complement) walnuts with pistachios or almonds.


Inipit by Ang Sarap

Raymund Ang Sarap inipit

A Filipino favourite, this sponge cake/pastry is filled with potato or ube custard in the middle. Take it to the next level by experimenting with the sponge cake part.












Event: 2018 Italian Wine + Food Festival, Sydney

Got an unsatisfiable appetite for pizza and wine? Prepare yourself – the nation’s artisanal Italian festival is hitting Sydney this month.

The Italian Wine + Food Festival returns to the Doltone House at the Australian Technology Park, bringing street-style pizza, fresh pasta and over 200 wines to taste from the pop-up restaurants and the Negroni Bar. There are also specially curated Italian wine masterclasses and cooking demonstrations by Sydney’s top Italian chefs along with Pizza Acrobatics show and other live entertainment.

Tickets start from $25. For more information, visit the Festival’s website.

Sunday, August 26, 10am-6.30pm | Doltone House – Australian Technology Park, Locomotive Workshop, 2 Locomotive Street, Eveleigh

Foodora Leaves Australia

Too lazy to leave the house for food? Your options are getting narrower – Foodora is leaving the Australian market.

In a statement released on Thursday, the food delivery company said it will “cease operations in response to a shift in focus towards other markets where the company currently sees a higher potential for growth.”

Foodora still has to defend against two lawsuits relating to unfair dismissal of delivery riders and sham contracting.

Transport Workers Union’s national secretary Tony Sheldon suggested Foodora’s exit was to avoid addressing its underpayment issue with the workers. “Foodora would rather pull out of Australia and leave thousands of riders without work rather than pay them the millions of dollars they owe,” Sheldon told the ABC.

“Ever since they arrived in Australia, Foodora, like other food delivery companies, has denied its riders fair rates, superannuation, workers compensation, annual leave, the right to collectively bargain and even forces them to work shifts for no pay at all.”

Food Shows on Youtube to Check Out

Need some recommendation for your Youtube crawling session? Check out these cooking video series – fun and informative, you’ll finish the video having learned something new.

Gourmet Makes | Bon Appétit

In this series, senior food editor Claire Saffitz takes on the challenge to make a homemade, ‘gourmet’ version of well-known food such as Kit Kats, Cheetos and Lucky Charms. It’s definitely not an easy journey, as Saffitz’s every failure and mini-breakdown is well-documented – but at the end of the video, Saffitz always provides a recipe that you can recreate.


Price Points | Epicurious

The premise of guessing which item is more expensive doesn’t always work – often it gets humiliating for the people involved, and we as the audience also get secondhand embarrassment. This is not the case with Price Points – rather than trying to get that ‘gotcha’ moments, the format of the series is designed to allow the experts to explain their choices and divulge their knowledge to uninformed audiences. From chocolate and cheese to meat and knives, you’ve got a lot of subjects covered.


Jun’s Kitchen

Curious about what life and cooking in Japan is like? Jun will satisfy that curiosity for you. With clean, small kitchen, cool tools and cute cats watching him work, Jun’s cooking channel is a warm, safe space on the Internet to chill.