From a young age, we’re told to finish eating everything on our plates. Yet, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), one third of the food produced is either lost or wasted. That’s enough food to feed approximately 870 million people across the globe. Despite this, we still choose to throw away large amounts of food on a daily basis. A study conducted by the World Resource Institute shows that 48 per cent of food loss and waste happens during production, handling and storage, and another 35 per cent at consumption. In order to better understand why we waste food, we need to look at our behavioural drivers and obstacles to change. Here’s a list of eight scenarios where our eating, cooking and serving habits increase food waste in landfills.

The full syndrome

Be it at home, school, work or even when we go out, once we feel full, we typically abandon the rest of our meal without a second thought. As we fear getting sick from overeating, the choice seems reasonable.

Photography by ahmettozar. Various meals flat lay on table.

Did you know? One out of nine people in the world do not have access to sufficient food for a healthy living. Studies show that every day more people die of hunger than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The food lover

Do you know someone who loves to show their love by feeding people? We appreciate these folks, but there is a limit to how much food (and sometimes love) we can take. When visiting this person’s house, plan to bring extra Tupperware, so you can continue to enjoy their tasty food later. Your future self will thank you when you need a quick meal the next day!

Gif description: Jersey Shore Vinny’s Mom.

Did you know? Every night, one in seven people go to bed hungry which accounts for the population of the U.S., Canada and the European Union (EU) combined.

The “I’m busy” meal

Most of the time, we’re so busy multitasking that we’re squeezing in meals without much thought.  With all that running around, we’re likely to forget our meal at home or forget to eat entirely.

Photography by KatarzynaBialasiewicz. Woman working and eating at office desk.

Did you know? 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area is used to produce food that never makes it to our plate. In addition to wasting a large amount of land, it’s also wasting valuable resources like energy and water.

The perfect plate

Do we eat to live or live to eat? Any food can become appetizing when it equally appeals to our eyes , nose and palate. And there are days we decide to throw away food just because it looks inedible.

Gif description: Phoebe from Friends eating food.

Did you know? Many grocery stores have aesthetic quality standards. For example, if a tomato is not the perfect size, shape or colour, it will likely not be put on the shelves.

The picky eater

We’re all aware that our bodies need nutrients from all types of food, yet we find ourselves picking out certain ingredients during our mealtimewe’re looking at you broccoli!

Photography via Michigan Health. Boy with head down and broccoli on plate.

Did you know? One in eight Canadian households are food insecure, meaning they don’t have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. Food insecure households are predominantly marginalized groups who have lower incomes, a single female parent, children under the age of 18, or belong to Indigenous peoples.

The ambitious cook

There’s so much variety out there when it comes to flavours and cuisines, and sometimes we buy ingredients hoping to make all the recipes that we’ve been saving to our phone. Except ingredients go bad, sometimes quickly, and the recipe of our dreams never gets made. Thus, wasting food yet again.

Gif description: Seth from the Late Night with Seth Meyers holding burnt rolls.

Did you know? “Best before” dates are set by the manufacturer, not by government regulations. Most date labels are actually conservative in order to protect brands. So “best before” doesn’t necessarily indicate if a product is no longer safe to eat. 

The forgotten food

What gives us confidence to stock up on extra food? The confidence to freeze it of course! But how often are we aware of all the content in our refrigerators and freezers? Sometimes a three year old sandwich makes a surprise reappearance.  Be aware of what needs to be eaten first so you’re not letting anything go to waste.

Gif description: Man opening a fridge and shaking his head.

Did you know? Many food banks donate millions of pounds of fresh and non-perishable food to those in need. Consider donating what you don’t need and find a food bank near you. 

The buffet king

Have you ever heard the saying “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” This has happened to all of us at some point, when we’re so excited for our next meal that we take way more than we can actually eat.

Gif description: Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants at the Free Land Food Buffet.

Did you know? Food loss and waste has many negative environmental impacts. If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the U.S.

Throughout theses eight scenarios, did you notice how our small actions can have major economic, environmental and social consequences? All of us are part of a system and our choices can either sustain or destroy the balance of our planet. Hopefully these eight listed prompts will help each one of us to reflect and reconsider our eating, cooking and serving tendencies.

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