Reducing Food Waste, One Ugly Apple at a Time

By Wendy Srnic
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I've been thinking more about food waste lately. Did you know that in the United States alone, we throw away 63 million tons of food a year?1 That’s just over 1 pound of food per person per day! Shocking, right?

When you think of food waste, your mind probably goes first to grocery stores, restaurants and perhaps (admit it …) your own kitchen. And, yes, you would be right — 80% of food waste happens in grocery stores, restaurants and our kitchens.1 But what about the other 20%?

Well, 20% of food waste happens in farms and food processing plants, but that assumes that the product was harvested and then tossed.1 How much perfectly edible food is not even harvested? It’s hard to get accurate estimates on that number, but growing up on a farm — and knowing that imperfect, diseased- or insect-attacked fruit and vegetables are often left to rot in the field — would make me guess it’s A LOT!

Luckily, there are small changes we can make at home to help reduce this food waste accumulation. Here are some ideas to get you and your family started:

  • Eat all your purchased produce (instead of eventually tossing it when it goes bad!)
  • Choose the “ugly fruit” at the grocery stores — it’s just as healthy as its “perfect” counterparts
  • Freeze or dehydrate extra produce until you’re ready to eat it

My family and I found a way to do our part to reduce food waste. About 10 years ago, my husband and I bought a home that came with a prolific apple tree. Every year, we would harvest all of the apples on the tree. Even after we moved, the buyer still let us harvest the apple tree every year. To keep the apples healthy and scab-free, we had hoped to use crop protection solutions, such as fungicides (which my team at Corteva does the development research on!). However, because we live out of state, we are not around to treat the tree during the season.

As a result, we go organic. Some years we have great, clean fruit. Other years we have a lot of apple scab. It all depends on the year and Mother Nature. But no matter what, we harvest it. Although unattractive, the discoloration is only on the skin of the apple. You can peel it and the apples still tastes great! The kids enjoy peeling apples with caramel sauce every day after school. We use every apple in all kinds of ways: fresh apples, canned, apple pie, apple butter, frozen apples, the list goes on. There is zero waste from that tree.

Reducing food waste is good for your health, the health of our planet and for agriculture in general. We can all do our part. It may be small, but it adds up! Apple pie, anyone?

1ReFED. 2016. The Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent.