Yes, there is another food waste study. This time, though, the report tries to sift through the data for some answers that could reduce fruit and vegetable waste.
The new study by the World Wildlife Fund study measures food waste at four fruit and vegetable farms in the 2017-18 growing season.
Called “No Food Left Behind: Underutilized Produce Ripe for Alternative Markets,” the report was funded by the Walmart Foundation and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, according to a news release.
The 13-page report looks at farms in Florida, New Jersey, Idaho and Arizona and found that 40% of tomatoes, 39% of peaches, 56% of romaine lettuce, and 2% of processing potatoes were left in the field. Weather, labor costs and market conditions led to those decisions, the report said.
“When food is lost at any point on its journey from farm to plate, that loss contributes to wasted land, water and other resources used to produce that food,” Pete Pearson, director of food loss and waste at WWF, said in the release. “There’s incredible opportunity to learn what drives food loss in domestic production and distribution, and to influence import markets by finding better global practices that could reduce agricultural expansion in other parts of the world.”
The report dutifully points out that Americans can begin to shift market dynamics by eating their recommended daily fruits and vegetables, including non-fresh fruits and vegetables.
The authors also talk about how both buyers and sellers need incentives to reduce food waste.
“The ideal crops for this solution will be crops that have ready outlets and markets for different produce grades. For example, potatoes and other root vegetables can cascade from the fresh market that takes the top two grades, to a processed market that accepts more imperfections, finally to a dehydrated or animal feed market,” the report said.
Looking ahead, the release said WWF will “investigate a variety of crops to better understand loss across the entire fruit and vegetable market and will continue to track other research on this topic to provide robust assessments of post-harvest loss in the U.S. specialty crop market.
“Our work is just beginning to address food loss at every stage,” Pearson said in the release.
“With continued commitment to understanding our trends, we can make supply chains more transparent, adjust agricultural purchasing, shift consumer perceptions of fruits and vegetables, and take better care of our Earth through more efficient use of food.”
Those goals are much loftier than scraping together more commodity-specific data on food waste — and that is good.