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Today is Blog Action Day 2011. It is also World Food Day. This year's theme for Blog Action Day is Food. Bloggers all over the world are writing about this one theme, from their own unique perspective. To find out more, visit the Blog Action Day website. Read more of our Blog Action Day posts on Heifer Blog here.

Here's my disclaimer: my family and I are just as guilty of accidentally letting food go to waste. Typically, it's produce I've purchased from the farmer's market with very good intentions (I know, I even wrote that blog post about how to stop wasting produce, for shame!). So, this lecture is directed to myself every bit as much as it is to you.

We, the Americans living in the United States, waste 55 million tons of food–40 percent of our food supply–every year. Worldwide, roughly one-third of the food produced is lost or goes to waste. That's disgusting on several levels. Recently, a software company did some calculations and found that food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of greenhouse gasses each year. That's 1,800 pounds per average family–400 pounds per individual–every year. That's not the food we're eating... 135 million tons of greenhouse gasses per year from food we throw out.

Photo by Dan Bazira

In developing countries, post-harvest food loss is the biggest culprit. Inadequate food storage, poor roads, etc. leads to food going to waste between the field and the plate. While this is a sad fact, especially considering the number of hungry people in developing countries (906 million), these are surmountable obstacles. In Uganda, Heifer participants are building small-scale grain storage containers to protect their harvests from spoilage. Roads can be built. Not only would such investments help cut down on food losses, they could also provide an incentive for farmers to increase their production. If I were a dairy farmer with new roads by which to transport my milk to a milk collection facility or my vegetables to market, I might start raising more livestock or sowing more seeds when I could afford to.

Photo from Flickr/superk8nyc. Creative Commons.

In industrialized countries, food waste comes after it's hit the grocery store isles, our refrigerators and shelves, and even our plates. With food prices on the rise and 13 million people in the Horn of Africa literally starving, wasting food is an even bigger no-no than usual. Once your checkout at your local store or market, that food is yours. Yours to prepare. Yours to eat. Your responsibility.

How you and I cut down on our household food waste? Well, we can purchase less to begin with. Shop from a grocery list based on a weekly meal plan. We can follow some easy (though sometimes easier written than followed) directions on how to store fresh produce. We can, gasp, lower our standards. I'd hate for anyone to get sick off my advice, but I can tell you I frequently eat leftovers well after "they" tell you to throw them away, and I'm doing just fine. Have a toddler? They don't know the difference between fresh crackers and stale! Cooked too much for dinner? Invite your neighbors over and make new friends.

Has your food gone bad, despite your efforts? Keep it out of the landfill by composting it. Or get some backyard chickens.

Cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and save some money. That researcher I mentioned above: he found that "if household food waste could be cut in half, a family of four could save $600 a year." What could you do with $600? I'd suggest a water buffalo, a sheep, a llama, some tree seedlings and a flock of geese.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.