In the United States we are lucky to have a surplus of food that is easy for almost everyone to access. However, this has led to a unique problem. The United States and several other countries have too much food waste. We allow billions of pounds of food to go to waste each year through our own inefficiency, or simply overestimating what we can eat.
How Much Do We Waste?
On average a person throws away 20 pounds of uneaten food every month. This makes up a lot of little bites left on the plate. It also means a lot of money is thrown away too. A family of four loses on average $2,275 per year in food waste. According to the National Institute of Health, America wastes about 40% of the food we produce. This includes just individual person up to the supermarket tossing out unwanted produce. It doesn’t go further up the chain to what the farmer may leave in the fields. In 2012, the United States of America tossed out the equivalent of 180 billion dollars’ worth of food. That is enough to feed a starving nation.
How Much Do The Landfills Take?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps are the number one item sent to landfills in the United States. This is on top of plastic and paper. Food waste contributes to twenty five percent of methane emissions, and fourteen percent of all municipal solid wastes. All of this waste also costs a lot of money to move. It takes $1.3 billion annually to move and dump the uneaten food waste of America. What is even more disturbing is the food that doesn’t make it out of the supermarkets. The USDA states that supermarkets lose $15 billion a year in unsold fruits and vegetables.
How to Cut Down On Waste?
We are working on ways to cut down on food waste on the individual level and higher up. Some supermarkets have implemented efficiency programs intended to cut down on the amount of food waste and money lost in unsold food. Sodexo is a food service company that has implemented a program where workers must weigh and record each item of food before tossing it, as well as stating the reason why it is being tossed. Implementing this program and seven college campuses allowed Sodexo to cut down on food waste and money lost by 50%. They found they were able to adjust how much food they ordered based on the recorded information.
The USDA is also looking at different programs they can implement to help cut down on food waste at the personal level and in smaller businesses. At home, people can pay more attention to what they eat from what is purchased each week and adjust how much food is prepared at a time.
It is great to live in a country where we have so much food available. Rather than losing this resource through waste, pay more attention to how much food is purchased, and where it is all going.