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In the United States, 48,135,000 people go hungry because of food scarcity — and yet, food waste is the second highest contributor to landfills, right behind paper waste. On average, the American citizen throws away about 20 pounds of food per month, that’s about 40 percent of what they buy. Collectively, that adds up to 30 million tons of food waste per year for the entire country – equalling a loss of $218 billion. The food we toss ranges from uneaten leftovers in restaurants (where an estimated 49,296,540 pounds of food go to waste daily) to produce that doesn’t fit in with the shiny, picture-perfect fruits and vegetables that we are so used to seeing in the grocery stores.

Unfortunately, on top of impacting our wallets, food waste also has a negative effect on the planet. As the 30 million tons of food waste sent to landfills each year decomposes, it releases methane into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. On top of that, 18 percent of cropland and 21 percent of fresh water, along with fossil fuels for transportation and other resources are wasted on food that is never eaten. Thankfully, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are both committed to reducing the country’s food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.

In a culture where we are so used to ordering too much food, buying too many groceries, and rejecting food that doesn’t fit in with pre-conceived aesthetic standards, this is no easy task. But thanks to one nonprofit, ReFED, the job will be easier.

ReFED is a collaborative, cross-sector nonprofit that is committed to reducing the $218 billion of food waste in the United States. According to their website, “RedFed takes a data-driven approach to move the food system from acting on instinct to insights to solve our national food waste problem.”

In their recently released page, Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste, ReFED breaks the problem down into 27 opportunities that nonprofit organizations, businesses, foundations, and government can take to reduce food waste. Their website also features ReFED’s Food Waste Innovator Database, which allows users to explore more than 400 commercial and nonprofit organizations that help reduce food waste. They also feature ReFED’s Food Waste Policy Finder, a tool developed in partnership with Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic that which breaks down policy on federal and state levels. Rather than leave it up to businesses to do the cost analysis, ReFED has already done the work for them. All they need to do is choose a plan and implement the solutions. In the end, following ReFED’s Roadmap hopes to save 1.8 million meals per year — and if businesses and other organizations follow their solutions, it will save them money, so we can’t see them ignoring that.

In a political climate where the EPA is constantly under attack from budget cuts and poor leadership choices, the country’s goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent cannot be left to the government alone. Thanks to ReFED’s innovative breakdown of solutions to reduce food waste, along with how those solutions will lead to money and resources being saved, we may yet reach that goal.

Another way we personally can reduce food waste in the home is meal planning — which isn’t always an easy feat. If you’re struggling to build a plan for your family’s meals, check out the Food Monster App, a recipe app that is available for both Android and iPhone. With over 8,000 vegan recipes (and over 10 new recipes added daily) and the option to create meal plans, you’re going to find something you love that will help you reduce your food waste footprint!

To learn more about ReFED, visit their official website.

Image source: simez78/Shutterstock

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