By: Sydney Richter
In the U.S., nearly 40% of the food available goes uneaten each year. Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and the hunger epidemic. Upcycling food is a sustainable approach to solve issues relating to food waste, and it is gaining momentum.
What is food upcycling?
Upcycled food is a term you should add to your vocabulary and your grocery list. According to a 2021 study published in Food and Nutrition Sciences, only 10% of consumers are familiar with upcycled food products, but once educated about them, 80% would seek them out.
As defined by the Upcycled Food Association, upcycled food is made out of ingredients that would otherwise not gone to human consumption, are sourced and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment. If you are looking to transform your diet and your carbon footprint, consider more upcycled food options.
“Ugly Fruit” is the term for misshapen, soft, or bruised fruits and veggies, and other edible fruit byproducts that are often thrown away. Grocery stores tend to opt for produce with the best visual appeal for consumers. Aesthetic shortcomings contribute to approx. 72 billion pounds of perfectly good food, according to Feeding America.
There are many new companies offering produce subscriptions for “ugly fruit” at discounted prices. With the upcycled food movement gaining popularity, we are making the shift to eating with our planet in mind.
Are plant-based diets the solution?
Now more than ever, it is crucial global efforts are focused on plant-based approaches to eradicating hunger as much as possible. Animal agriculture contributes to food insecurity through not only climate change, but also through harmful livestock farming methods. In order to eat animals and their products, we have to grow to crops necessary to feed them, producing more crops than it would take to feed humans.
We should promote diets that minimize the use of resources, instead of abusing them. According to some estimates, we have the potential to feed 1.4 billion additional people in the U.S. simply by giving up beef, pork, and poultry. If the whole world shifted to plant-based eating, it would spark immense positive change. People who consume beef use 160 times more land, water and fuel resources to sustain their diets than a vegan or plant-based diet.
Adopting a plant-based diet can drastically reduce your carbon footprint, save water, and help save resources used to feed people. New plant-based and upcycled food options emerge each day, making it even easier to make the switch.
What can I do?
While we do not have the power to change government institutions, our individual lifestyle choices can make a difference. Our everyday choices have the power to fix our food system, help species survive and create a sustainable future.
The Feed Philly Coalition creates a network among non-profits and connects them to upcycling businesses. We create food sustainability in order to feed Philly. Check out our website for more information.