1/3 of our Food is Wasted

Food has always been integral to cultural heritage. Agriculture is not only a fundamental part of the economy, but it is also of great significance to Palestinian identity. Sadly enough, this symbolic value of food as a part of cultural heritage gets obscured by the tremendous amount of food waste. Globally, 1/3 of the total food produced is wasted – which theoretically is enough to feed three billion people. In the MENA region, an estimate of 210 kg of food is lost per person per year. These are distressing numbers when putting into context, considering the resource and water scarcity in the region, and that about 33% of the Palestinian population (68% in Gaza) are food insecure. In this sense, not only does food waste end up in landfills, significantly contributing to climate change, it also involves social and economic value losses. 

As consumers, we can engage in simple yet effective ways of reducing the waste that results from our households. Food waste happens when we don’t handle our leftovers correctly when we buy more than we need, or simply when a vegetable does not meet the “beauty” standards of the industry. Shape, color, and size are the main drivers of food selection on consumer levels. 

Here are 10 simple ways to tackle food waste

  • Plan your meal and shopping lists carefully, to avoid buying more than you need. 
  • Store leftovers and food properly; freeze and choose the right containers. 
  • The lifetime of your veggies and produce can be extended by, for example, putting carrots, herbs, and leafy greens in glass jars with water. This will keep them fresh longer.
  • Extend the lifetime of some fresh produce by fermentation and pickling.
  • Forget about the “cosmetic standards” placed by grocery stores on fruits and veggies and buy ugly-looking produce as long as it is not spoiled. 
  • Most foods are safe to consume longer than frequently advertised. Unless signs of spoilage such as mold appear, most foods can be consumed past their stated expiration date. 
  • Cook with food scraps! There are many recipes available online that advertise this practice. Perfectly edible parts of vegetables can often be used for cooking nutrient-rich meals. For example, you can make a salad from herb stems and carrot tops, or veggie stir-fries with leftover broccoli and beet stems. 
  • A lot of food is wasted at restaurants, and bringing your food container when dining out is a good way to store leftovers and avoid disposable to-go boxes.
  • Composting is also a great way to make use of your organic waste because the process turns it into nutrient-rich soil that can be used as a natural fertilizer for gardening. All types of food can be composted, except for meat, fish, grease, and dairy products, which tend to attract unwanted pests. You can easily compost in your backyard by piling up leftovers and digging these directly into the soil. Or throw them into a compost bin together with some paper scraps and occasional watering. 
Backyard composting
  • Use shells for planting seedlings

The importance of engaging in waste-reducing practices increases when viewed within the context of land confiscation, lack of control over natural resources, and restrictions on food production that Palestinians face under occupation. In this sense, dealing responsibly with food waste is not merely a matter of reducing one’s ecological footprint but also an indication of an appreciation for the land and for the sense of national identity that is linked to it.