Food waste is a big problem for people and the environment, but it’s one we are working to solve!  This Earth Day, as we reflect on humankind’s relationship with the planet, is a great time to consider the importance of initiatives like gleaning that mitigate the negative environmental impacts of our food production process.

How is gleaning beneficial for the environment?  Consider all of the energy and resources that go into producing a bag of kale on a grocery store shelf.  Growing that kale requires water, fuel to run farm machinery and the trucks that transport it to the grocery store, energy to refrigerate it, and plastic for packaging.  All of those resources are wasted when our unsold bag of kale reaches its best-by date and ends up in the trash, like 38% of all food that is produced in the United States (ReFED).  In the landfill, the kale decomposes anaerobically, releasing potent greenhouse gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.  That’s a serious problem for the planet, but luckily, we can prevent it from happening.

Imagine that our hypothetical bag of kale isn’t thrown in the trash: instead, grocery store workers set it aside to donate. Glean Kentucky volunteers bring it with other donations to a local food pantry.  In a matter of hours, the kale has been distributed to a family who is experiencing food insecurity.  The resources that went into producing that bag of kale go to good use and a family has access to nutritious, fresh food: a win-win for people and the planet.

We can all make an impact on food waste. As an individual, you can:

  • Plan your weekly meals before grocery shopping to reduce waste
  • Compost your food scraps
  • Educate yourself about “sell-by” dates on shelf-stable food. (There is no national standard for “best-by” dates, and they often indicate when a food is most fresh, not when it becomes unsafe to eat.)
  • Teach friends and family about food waste

And, of course, you can go gleaning with Glean Kentucky!