Anyone who has worked at a restaurant or supermarket knows about the immense waste produced by food that has passed its expiration date or is otherwise unfit for sale. Even at Boston University, we witness the waste of food at the dining hall cleaning stations or in the trash at the George Sherman Union. Those who reflect on the food that is thrown away on a daily basis come to think about smart solutions to repurpose the so-called “bad” food. Of course, at BU, composting is an important tool to lessen the impact of throwing out perfectly good food.

Denmark grocery store opened recently and plans to sell discounted food which has passed its expiration dates. PHOTO VIA PIXABAY

Denmark grocery store opened recently and plans to sell discounted food which has passed its expiration dates. PHOTO VIA PIXABAY

A new grocery store in Denmark, however, believes it has a better approach: it only sells food that is past its expiration date or is imperfect in a way such that it would not be sold by other supermarkets (think: bruises or opened packaging). The key is that all of the food is discounted by 30 to 50 percent compared to the food that would be found at a traditional supermarket. The practice encourages people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to shop at this store, according to The Washington Post.

WeFood is tapping into the growing concern that countries are throwing away too much food. The Washington Post reported that about one-third of all food produced ends up in the trash. It is thought that this fraction is higher in the richest countries, which are known for strict food standards and picky consumers who want perfect-looking food. According to The Washington Post, in Denmark, these unreasonable standards make for more than 1.5 billion pounds of edible, discarded food, and in the United States, this number hits 70 billion pounds — a truly staggering figure.

According to a report by the Danish government, in the last five years, Denmark has reduced its food waste by an impressive 25 percent. This shows how food waste reduction has become an increasingly important governmental priority around the world. In France, for instance, the government has approved measures that make it illegal for supermarkets to throw away edible food, so supermarkets will either donate the food to charity or ensure that it is used in animal feed. Those that do not comply will face expensive fines up to $82,000. In addition, the European Union as a whole has pledged to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2025.

The United States lags behind its European counterparts and should do more to reduce its food waste, which in total currently amounts to a whopping $165 billion in food that goes uneaten. Cutting this number by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans each year, which would help take on the challenge of hunger throughout the country.

On a local level, Massachusetts has been at the forefront of combating food waste, with a ban on commercial food waste that went into effect in 2014. More states should embrace such measures and help address this very important issue.

  1. Food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today’s tough economy and for the food retailers. Fortunately, there are new ways to reduce fresh food waste.
    The new open GS1 DataBar barcode standard enables new food waste reduction applications that allow automatic progressive purchasing incentives for fresh perishables approaching their expiration dates. These applications also eliminate labor-intensive manual relocation and promotional labeling of the promoted perishable lots.
    An example of such an application is the “End Grocery Waste” App. This GS1 DataBar based application encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that makes fresh food affordable for all families, maximizes grocery retailer revenue, and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint.

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