How We Can Protect Our Food Supply

By Tracy Williams

EEveryone, whether they are disabled or not, is concerned for the future of the environment. Preventing food waste is a way to keep the environment safe and healthy for future generations. When we work together to eliminate food waste, we take a giant step towards stopping hunger. According to Feeding America, in 2020, 72 billion pounds of food went to waste while 50 million people struggled with hunger.

Food waste factors into environment sustainability as well, a fact about which Feeding America wants to educate America. Food loss occurs at every stage of the food production and distribution system, which means $218 billion worth of foods are thrown away each year. The 72 billion pounds of food wasted does not include meals eaten at home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) , 21% of food produced end up in the landfill, while 21% of the water supply is wasted in food production if the food products are wasted.

Canned Goods and Health

Canned goods as well as frozen fruits and veggies are still considered beneficial and wholesome.

Canned goods and frozen fruits and veggies are still awesome additions for recipes. Many consumers are not aware of the fact that canned goods are packaged within hours of picking the fruits and veggies from the ground or a tree. Many consumers are perplexed about whether or not canned goods actually have an expiration date.

Canned Foods and Food Waste

Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, likes to educate her clients and consumers that canned goods are safer if they are not dented, damaged or rusted. The date on the canned goods does indicate when the item may become lower in quality and less flavorful, but still safe to eat or drink. Food safety is still a concern for consumers who use canned goods often, so it is crucial to use the principle of First In First Out, or FIFO. This simply means that consumers need to label their food with the dates they store them, and put the older foods in front or on top so that they use them first. This system allows consumers to find their food earlier and use them better.

Most registered dietitian nutritionists who work with clients who have disabilities focus on urging their clients to improve their organization style, by organizing all canned goods on lower shelves for people who use wheelchair or other mobility devices. Smaller cans are also more accessible if people have a harder time gripping any item because of the level of fine motor control. Canned goods make recipe creation easier because less food preparation is needed. All canned goods can last for two years.

Organic Produce and Nutrition

The debate between organic and conventionally grown produce is controversial. This debate is challenging because some consumers may feel confused about what the truth happens to be. Some advocates of the organic food movement believe that conventionally grown foods are less safe and less healthy, but it is all personal choice. It is great though, that the USDA shares guidelines for what it means to produce organically grown. They provide rules and goals for organic practices as well as what is permitted during the growth process. Some people who consume organic foods do so for environmental reasons, but the nutrition benefits are the same between organic and conventionally grown produce.

Food Waste and Fruits and Veggies

Ms. Mills makes her clients and consumers aware that the conversation between organic and conventionally grown produce may be futile because we as Americans do not consume enough produce at the beginning. USDA food consumption surveys find the average American falls short, only consuming 0.9 cups of fruit and 1.4 cups of vegetables per day despite how beneficial they are to increasing the intake of vitamins, minerals as well as fiber, along with adding flavor and texture to recipes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 12.2% of American adults are meeting the standards for fruits, while 9.3% are meeting the standards for veggies. The American Cancer Society advises following the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which is to consume at least 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables and 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruits for each day, according to an individual's calorie intake goals.

Conventionally grown produce does last longer in the American kitchen, either on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator due to skin having wax. Organic produce does not have wax, which means it will spoil faster. The fruits and veggies that release more ethylene gas get softer sooner.

Refrigeration Guidelines for Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and veggies are often stored improperly. The inappropriate storage causes them to go bad too rapidly and eventually become wasted. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that Americans toss out 19% of veggies purchased and 14% of the fruits. Some fruits and veggies are to be stored in the refrigerator, while others are safer at room temperature. The focus should always be to make correct storage decisions.

People should only refrigerate apples, cantaloupe, figs, plums, kiwi, along with apricots. The veggies that need to be stored are cucumbers, cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli as well as Brussel sprouts. Dietitians encourage their clients not to store peaches, avocados, nectarines, watermelon and bananas because they are healthier stored at room temperature. If produce goes bad within a few days, consumers might want to reconsider their storage plan.

It is crucial to keep produce safe and fresh from storage to plate. Consumers should not purchase produce with mold, bruises and cuts. It is vital to wash produce before eating or cooking with fresh fruits and veggies. The main concern should be to store produce separately from eggs, meat, poultry and seafood if they are raw to prevent produce spoilage. Also, a traditional refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Refrigeration and Food Waste

Meal Planning and Food Waste Prevention

Registered dietitians and environmentalists alike encourage consumers to focus on meal planning to prevent any level of food waste. Most consumers can choose between writing a meal calendar for either three days or at most for a week to help limit food waste. Ms. Mills persuades her clients to consider using large enough recipes to always have leftovers at the ready on busy nights.

Using grocery lists might help people spend less money and purchase only the food needed for specific recipes. Home cooking can to be simplified by using by using frozen or canned produce because they may have the same nutritional benefits, while also lessening the risk of wasted food. Be imaginative and use the edible parts of foods that you normally throw away, such as making stock for soups, stews and sauces, making croutons from stale bread or leveraging your fruit stores to make homemade smoothies.

Food waste prevention takes planning and education. Consumers should educate themselves on meal planning, what happens with organic produce and how it is grown, and the importance of canned goods. Food waste prevention will aid in environmental sustainability in the future.


About the Author:

Tracy Williams has her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University. She enjoys partnering with disability organizations and conventions for speaking engagements on nutrition. She enjoys partnering with suburban Chicago park districts, rotary clubs, libraries, schools and some non-profit organizations. She enjoys doing some blogging for other registered dietitians as well. She is beginning her freelance writing journey with Push Living. You can connect with her at her website Please feel free to contact her if you have any nutrition questions. She loves to debunk any basic nutrition myths.


Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!

Sign up for the Abilities Buzz

Stay in the know on disability news and info.