It’s no secret that food waste is rampant in America. Research now shows that the United States does not face this problem alone. The world loses or wastes one-quarter to one-third of all food produced for consumption, according to a World Bank report released last week.

This gap between production and consumption means the difference between malnutrition and a healthy diet. In undernourished regions of Africa and South Asia, for example, the food losses translate to 400 – 500 calories per person, per day. In developed countries, losses are as high as 1,520 calories per person, per day.

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“The amount of food wasted and lost globally is shameful,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank. “Millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night, and yet millions of tons of food end up in trash cans or spoiled on the way to market.”

Different regions of the globe lose food at different stages of production. In North America, for example, over 60 percent of losses take place in the consumption stage—think refrigerators of rotting produce. In fact, an average four-person family in the United States wastes $1,600 per year at the consumption stage.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, most food losses take place during production and processing; only 5 percent of food loss takes place during consumption. In both scenarios, food loss contributes to enormous economic, energy, and natural resource inefficiencies. Water used for irrigation, for instance, is wasted when the end product is lost.

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A number of constructive solutions have already been suggested, from investing in transportation and storage infrastructure to encouraging a shift in consumer and commercial behavior. But until these large-scale changes are implemented, individual consumers are encouraged to think critically about food consumption and food waste. We’ve provided tips to minimize food waste—remember, a small change can make a big difference in fixing food loss!

Image source: Jbloom / Flickr

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