A photo of Target’s food waste recently circulated on Reddit after a shopper posted an image with two large trash cans filled with unopened food.
The discarded food included a variety of fresh and frozen grocery items, including grapes, mochi ice cream, and packaged steak. Above the image, the caption read, “This food waste at my local Target.”
Commenters on the post speculated the reasons behind the food waste. “Might have been a return?” wrote one Reddit user. “I know when I worked in a grocery store that even if someone left the building with the food for like two seconds and then came back in and wanted to return it, we would have to toss it because there’s no way to be sure it wasn’t tampered with somehow.”
“Prob due to the ‘best before’ date, which is a shame because most food is still good [past it],” another user commented.
The frustration and confusion surrounding the image highlights the complexity of food waste and the struggle to combat it.
In a 2021 report on the environmental impacts of food waste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that food waste results in carbon pollution equivalent to 42 coal-fired power plants. This estimate does not account for the additional methane gas that food waste releases once it’s dumped in a landfill.
While retail and grocery stores across the U.S. attempt to integrate viable solutions for reducing food waste, they must ensure all donated food is safe for human consumption.
In most cases, food must be donated immediately to prevent the items from perishing before reaching collection centers. For example, when the freezers and refrigerators malfunction at Trader Joe’s, the store donates all food items to customers already present in the store. This solution guarantees that the groceries are still at a safe temperature when the customers receive the food.
Other grocery stores take quick action by teaming up with a local food bank. After a Kroger in North Little Rock lost power, the Arkansas Foodbank recovered and delivered 76,833 pounds of food to communities throughout central Arkansas over the course of two days.
While the image of food waste at Target frustrated Reddit users, commenters encouraged positive action. One suggested Food Rescue US, which says on their website that through their “web-based app, we engage volunteers to transfer fresh food surpluses from local businesses to social service agencies serving the food insecure.”
“Food Rescue US is working to fix this issue!” wrote the Reddit user. “Start a site in your area to help eliminate food waste!”
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