ASHEVILLE – A reader wonders what happens to grocery store food once it’s past its expiration date. Do you have a question for Answer Man or Answer Woman? Email interim executive editor Karen Chávez at KChavez@citizentimes.com and your question could appear in an upcoming column.
Ask: If a supermarket product has not been purchased on its best before date, what do the supermarkets do with those products? Does it matter if that product is perishable like fish? Is there data on how much product in volume could end up in landfill?
Answer: I’ve cashed in some pretty good deals in the clearance aisles of supermarkets, as well as in the fish, meat, and bakery departments, when prices are slashed on products that make their way into or past their “best by,” expiration dates, and expiration dates. are still considered good and edible, as explained by our Southern Kitchen editor and former ACT food writer at usatoday.com.
Supermarket companies have their own way of dealing with these products, and with products that are no longer safe for consumption and use.
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Mother Earth Food, an Asheville-founded and family-owned home grocery delivery service, strives to prevent food waste by not over-ordering from suppliers, reducing the likelihood of unpurchased consumers spoiling food.
“At Mother Earth Food, we use trends in consumer demand and farmer supply data to place orders and help our farming partners plan for harvest,” Mother Earth Food co-founder Andrea DuVall said in an email. -mail. “By responding to these trends and data, we manage to keep our food waste quite low, less than 1%.”
She estimated that 0.3% of the company’s total food supply is donated and 0.09% is composted.
“Because it’s not 0%, we’re working with community organizations in our area like Bountiful Cities and Appalachian Wildlife Rescue to donate leftover food to those in need,” she said. “Since we deal primarily with perishable foods, a small percentage is not salable after donation and is composted.”
MANNA FoodBank, a WNC-based organization, partners with supermarket companies including Ingles, Food Lion, Publix, Walmart, Sam’s, Aldi’s, Trader Joe’s, Harris-Teeter, Fresh Market, Earth Fare and Whole Foods Market. Many items are almost or just past their expiration date, but still good to eat. The food bank brings the food “very quickly” to the food banks, who then distribute it to the neighbors.
“All of our partner networks must be trained on food safety guidelines to become a grocery pick-up partner,” Lisa Reynolds, Director of Food Sourcing, said in an email.
Food waste, which she said is the last option, is maintained at about 3%-5% of MANNA FoodBank’s total donations.
“Items deemed unfit to be consumed are composted, recycled and recycled where possible, given to local farmers for animal feed or composting, and ultimately discarded when no other options are available,” Reynolds said.
Whole Foods Market partners with the national organization Food Donation Connection to donate perishable and non-perishable foods to local food banks and food relief organizations across the U.S.
By 2022, more than 30 million meals will be donated to nearly 1,000 food rescue and redistribution programs, a Whole Foods Market spokesperson reported. An estimated 184 million meals have been donated since 2013.
“We have active biological diversion programs at nearly 450 sites and have collectively diverted more than 107,000 tons of food waste from landfill by the end of 2022,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Another 2,529 tons of food waste was sent to anaerobic digestion plants through an organic waste recycling system called Grind2Energy.”
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Walmart has launched a sustainability initiative to achieve zero food and plastic waste in the company’s four global markets, the US, Canada, Japan and the UK, by 2025, according to the company’s business website.
When it comes to food, steps to reduce food waste include increasing the resale of food products, improving inventory flow and offering discounts on near-expiry foods.
Unpurchased food is donated to food banks and other charities – in FY 2022, Walmart reported donating more than 696 million pounds of food in the US.
Inedible food was turned into fodder, compost or energy.
“Our stores in Argentina, Canada, Chile, Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, for example, send some of their food waste to anaerobic digesters, which break down the food into gases that can be used as fuel. and fertilizer,” the website reads.
The US Department of Agriculture and the US Environmental Protection Agency launched a challenge to encourage companies to change their wasteful ways.
The US Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions is designed to “recognize companies that have made a public commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their operations in the United States by 50 percent by the year 2030.”
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From its inception in 2016 through May 2022, more than 45 food companies, including supermarkets, have joined the lead, including Albertsons, Aldi, Food Lion, Kroger, and Walmart.
“Food Lion is committed to donating an additional 1 billion meals to its neighbors in need by 2025 since reaching the goal of 500 million meals by 2019. In 2021, more than 152 million meals were donated through Food Lion Feeds and since then more than 902 million donated. 2014,” states the USDA in its milestone report, published in September 2022.
Learn more on the US Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions website, usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/champions.
Food waste is a problem beyond supermarket shelves.
According to Feeding America, a charity dedicated to ending hunger, 34 million people in the US go hungry, yet 119 billion pounds of food is wasted – nearly 40% of all food in the US is wasted.
“That equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away each year,” according to Feeding America.
Tiana Kennell is the food and eating reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please support this kind of journalism with onesubscription to the Citizen Times.