According to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. What does that cost? It translates to $40 billion a year in losses just for households, the report estimates, and $90 billion overall.
40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. What does that cost? It translates to $40 billion a year in losses just for householdsThe report includes other mind-numbing figures. The average American throws away 33 pounds of food every month. With the amount of water that goes into food production, 25 percent of all freshwater in the United States is wasted. It costs $750 million just to dispose of all the wasted food, and food waste accounts for about 4 percent of total U.S. oil consumption.
"One billion people are malnourished even though the world produces enough food to feed twice the world's present population."Food is wasted in all parts of the world, and most waste occurs in production. But, through over-purchasing, spoilage, and plate waste, consumers waste an enormous amount of food, and North Americans are by far the worst offenders.
These circumstances are intolerable not only in economic terms but also in moral terms. More than 17 million Americans don't have reliable access to enough food. About one of every seven Americans uses food stamps. Malnutrition is of course a dire problem in other parts of the world. According to an much-cited chart created by Door to Door Organics, "One billion people are malnourished even though the world produces enough food to feed twice the world's present population."
The NRDC report offers some simple solutions every consumer can adopt. The report advises us to shop wisely and avoid buying more than we need; to be aware that "sell-by" and "use-by" dates are merely manufacturer suggestions for peak quality and typically not an indication of safety; to get creative with using food items in the fridge that otherwise would get tossed; to ask for smaller portions at restaurants; and to eat leftovers. This stuff is not hard to do, and the payoff could be more than worth it.
Other simple solutions are available. Plenty of waste goes on at school cafeterias across the country, but it could be greatly reduced by planning recess before lunch so students aren't rushing through meals to get outside. Waste at home can be reduced by cutting helpings down to the size that will actually get consumed.
Politicians have found it difficult to reduce government waste. But individual Americans will find it easy to reduce food waste.