Food Waste in New Jersey

Each year, the average family of four throws $1800 dollars right in the garbage. Wouldn't you think that with the Garden State’s rich agriculture, we should have a surplus of food? I feel that this begs the question, why should hunger still be such an issue in New Jersey?

Volunteers at the Food Banks of New Jersey fly through the aisles to stock food for the needy. Fulfill, which is the food bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties are actively making the effort to reduce food waste.

The Director of Advocacy and Programs for Fulfill, Barbara Scholtz, says, "We know that here in New Jersey, there are almost a million people who are food insecure. This means that they don't have regular access to enough food to live a healthy life."

That statistic averages out to 1200 calories per-person, per-day, which is only enough to feed a small child.

Barbara adds that, "We know that theres no shortage of food because most of the food we have here is never eaten. One of the things that we do here is make sure that no food goes to waste. We work with many different organizations and try to rescue that food. Then, we make sure that it goes to people who need it the most."

We waste between 30 to 40 percent of food in the United States, which is more than any other country in the world! As a comparison, that’s like buying five bags of groceries and leaving two in the parking lot.

I talked to the Communications Manager for 'Move For Hunger,' Dan Beam and he said, "It doesn't make sense right? We have enough food, we have a lot of people that are hungry. It's a problem with a solution.

I wondered if this is something that people are just not aware of? Dan Beam told me that whenever he throws out the numbers to people that 40% of our food is wasted, the reaction is always the same. They all say "Wow I had no idea!"

So the next question is, where does the food in the pantries come from? New jersey supermarkets are a huge help to the problem. They routinely donate their surplus foods to food banks, just like Fulfill.

Barbara Scholtz told me that, "Fulfill works with all major retailers. Right now, we are working with just about every food retailer here in Monmouth and Ocean counties. You've got your Shoprites, your Stop-N-Shops, your Costco's, you name it. All of them are working with us."

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told Jersey Matters that “last year, the state adopted a law that sets a goal of reducing food waste generated in New Jersey by 50% by 2030. This goal is important because it is estimated that 30-40% of the food we purchase ends up being wasted and going to landfills and incinerators.”

This shows how food waste is also an environmental problem. Food waste accounts for up to a third of the water used by agriculture in the us. So in essence, throwing out a hamburger equals what it would take for a 90-minute shower.

Dan Beam of Move for Hunger explained that, "When we waste food and it goes into the landfill, it decomposes the anaerobic without oxygen. Then, it releases methane, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide."

Unfortunately, fresh produce being the most costly, is the first food that the needy cut out their diet. The Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties have the answer to that.

Barbars Scholtz tells us all about their thriving gardens. "The waste goes into our compost right out back in our garden. The compost garden is used to fertilize our organic garden, which creates more meals. We have several pounds of fresh produce and it goes out to family members in need.

As you see, food waste is a big problem, so we need big solutions. There are many ways to help the problem starting right in your own home. Maybe consider composting instead of tossing extra food in the trash or you can donate your leftovers to local food banks and farms. It’s a huge problem to tackle, but if we all play a part it may help feed the hungry.

For the full story that aired on 'Jersey Matters,' check out this link:

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