Every year, New York's Chapter of the Swedish American Chamber hosts a fantastic conference titled "Green Summit, From Farm to Fork – The Future of the Industry" which examines several issues in the world of food and technology. I frequently participate and was able to have a panel discussion with Chef Stefano Catenacci from Sweden about the growing trend of sustainability in the restaurant industry.
Here are some astounding facts we discovered during our conversation:
Americans spend less of their incomes on food than citizens of any other country but have the highest food waste per capita.
In 2009, Americans on average spent 6% of their income on food, but wasted more than a third of all food wasted, while citizens of most European countries spent over 10% and wasted less than 1/4 of all food wasted.
In 2010 the US produced more than 34 million tons of food waste while Sweden produced 1 million tons.
Looking at the differences between Sweden and the United States is a helpful way to see what progress we have already made and what progress needs to happen. Ideas like farm-to-table or green market fresh have become trends in the US in the last ten years but are practices I grew up as a child living in Sweden. We foraged for mushrooms, picked berries and preserved, pickled or smoked fish to keep for the rest of the year. People now would call this eating seasonally, but to us we simply called it living!
In general, I find that green practices in the United States are behind Sweden and most of Europe there are a lot of legitimate organizations that are making great strides in sustainability, waste and hunger (yes all three are connected!) Here are two that are doing their best to champion these issues and educate, which we all know is key in making a difference.
CityHarvest City Harvest is a New York based organization that helps feed over 1 million hungry people a year by collecting over 46 million pounds of excess food and distributing it to over 400 community centers. They have found one of the most effective ways to think about finding a solution for food waste and hunger in the same principle.
Green Restaurant Association This is an organization that helps restaurants, manufacturers and distributors to become more energy efficient, sustainable and environmentally conscious in all aspects of their business. They use a certification system to rate restaurants based on water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable food, energy, disposables and pollution. The GRA not only sets goals for restaurants, but also builds knowledge and finds green solutions.