We’ve all found ourselves clutching that lonely can of forgotten pantry beans, thinking about how far past the “best by” date we can conscientiously donate the uneaten food. You might throw them in the trash or (hopefully) send them to your local food bank, alongside pasta, boxed mac and cheese, and other dry goods. And that’s probably where our understanding of food waste begins and ends.

But the nationwide problem of excess food waste, and the subsequent movement to reduce and reallocate our country’s excess, is much more complex. Food rescue, or reallocation, is the umbrella term for a wide array of initiatives that seek to save food destined for landfills and redistribute it to those in need, with the hope of reducing environmental harm and curbing food insecurity. The movement goes beyond just efforts to donate food to those in need: It addresses overconsumption, encouraging people to donate what they’ve already grown or purchased, rather than adding more food into a system of waste.

And the movement operates across industries, on multiple levels, addressing both larger-scale agricultural waste and smaller-scale household waste. Government programs encourage farms and businesses to donate food surpluses through government incentives. Food banks redistribute would-be-waste to communities in need, and new tech ventures, like on-demand food donation apps, connect people to food on an individual basis.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the United States wastes 133 billion pounds of food a year due to things like issues during transportation, over-ordering by retail businesses, and household waste. Food waste (or “surplus”) makes up about 24% of what goes into American landfills, with consumer-facing businesses creating 23 million tons of waste and households creating 30 million tons of waste each year, according to ReFed, a nonprofit that collects data on food waste across the United States.

Here's how you can take part in food rescue on almost every level, from donations through work to daily choices to reduce your waste:

  1. Offer your uneaten food before it goes to waste
  2. Give your time and money to nonprofits and rescue initiatives
  3. Support environment and people-focused policies

Read the full article about food insecurity by Chase DiBenedetto at Mashable.