Even if you’re doing your part to reuse and recycle food, the food industry still plays a part to seize opportunities that can reduce food waste while also improving healthy food access. Here's a look at the numbers.

More than one-third of consumers interpret the date labels printed on packaged products as an indicator of safety, according to proprietary New Hope Network research designed to understand how food labels impact food waste and food access. When manufacturers and retailers were asked how they think about expiration dates, a similar percentage reported misunderstanding.

What can you do to encourage manufacturers and retailers to help with food sustainability?

One option is to encourage them to donate food that is nearing or past the date on the package. The retailers and manufacturers surveyed report that 60 percent of their past-date food is not donated for human consumption, and two-thirds of retailers indicated that legal liability concerns prevent them from donating. Education about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, passed in the 1990s to protect good-faith donors against liability, is a must.

Survey respondents almost unanimously agreed that standardized labeling would help, too. Luckily, this work is already under way. GMA and FMI are working to lobby their memberships to adopt one quality (“best if used by”) and one safety (“use by”) label.