How Can Social Help Solve the Food Insecurity and Food Waste Disconnect in the U.S.?

As a member of the executive team, I was involved in the TEDxSanJoseCA TEDCity2.0 event at the beautiful Silicon Valley Capital Club on Friday, where we heard talks from some compelling speakers.

Part of the fun, and breaking with the normal traditional TEDx schedule, was that the attendees were assigned randomly to different tables for breakout sessions on the themes of:
  • Food
  • Public Space/Art
  • Housing
  • Youth and Play
  • Water
  • Health
I was seated at the Food table. We had 15 or so minutes of discussion time to brainstorm some big ideas about creating and sharing our vision of the future city of San Jose around the theme of food. There were some amazing ideas that all centered around bringing food production into local communities.

We had two very different themes going in our brainstorming session:
  • How could local communities grow and distribute local food, saving the money and time needed to ship produce across the country or even from continent to continent?
  • How could local communities, government, and private businesses address local food insecurity and nutrition with gardens?
And we came up with the following ideas:
  •  Work with corporations to replace lawns, trees, and flowers with vegetable gardens and fruit trees
  • Work with building owners to add gardens to the top of their buildings in urban areas
  • Add gardens to public parks and include free nearby housing for farmers
  • Add gardens to already landscaped and watered street medians
  • Set up flatbed trucks that could grow and deliver produce to the people who needed it the most
  • Teach children how to garden and how to cook what they grow
  • Create a smartphone app that connects people who have excess food with people who would like the excess food
And perhaps coincidentally, (and perhaps not), I've seen several articles about food insecurity in the United States just recently.

This one caught my eye first: Trader Joe's Ex-President To Turn Expired Food Into Cheap Meals. "Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe's, is determined to repurpose the perfectly edible produce slightly past its sell-by date that ends up in the trash. (That happens in part because people misinterpret the labels, according to article from Harvard and the National Resources Defense Council.) To tackle the problem, Rauch is opening a new market, called Daily Table,, early next year in Dorchester, Mass., that will prepare and repackage the food at deeply discounted prices."

This article is the first time I've really seen, and thought about these pretty shocking figures:
  • One-third of the world's food goes to waste every year
  • In the U.S., about 40 percent of our food gets thrown out
And yet so much of waste may be caused  by the seemingly simple issue of no standardization on use by/sell by/best by dates on our food, as discussed in this article: The (Food) Dating Game: Why Expiration Dates Don't Help. According to this article, "Confusion over dates, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, leads nine out of 10 Americans to needlessly throw away food."

Then there is Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera, who has taken up the SNAP challenge eating  on just $4.50 per day—the average food benefit for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Shaich is sharing his experiences and thoughts on his blog.

The Feeding America website shares some startling facts about food insecurity in the United States.

So here's a challenge to my readers: How can we use social media channels to solve this problem? We have food going to waste every single day, and people who are going hungry every day. How do we connect the two, and use the first one to help solve the second one?