According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and published in the journal PLOS ONE, the average American wasted around one pound of food every day from 2007–2014, which amounted to nearly 26 percent of food each day. Basically, about one-third of the food Americans ate every day went to waste!
When it comes to food waste, the problem doesn’t end with that half of a banana or almost-finished plate of spaghetti. As consumers, we often forget all of the resources that went into making our food possible in the first place. Food wasted by American consumers puts a great strain on resources like land and water. For example, the amount of food we waste every year represents around 30 million acres of land. Further, the discarded rotting food releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.
Interestingly, the data showed that people who follow a healthier diet tend to be the most wasteful since fresh produce gets discarded very often, Food Dive reports. Fruits and vegetables, as well as mixed fruit and vegetable dishes, account for 39 percent of food waste, followed by dairy at 19 percent, meat and mixed meat dishes (14 percent), and finally grains and grain mixed dishes (12 percent). Other kinds of foods and dishes – like candy, beverages, nuts, oils, and so on – accounted for less than 10 percent of total food waste.
All in all, the study showed that around 800 kcal (795–840 kcal) were wasted daily per person, which translates to around 29 percent of the average total daily energy intake for all nutrients.
While a huge amount of food is being wasted every day, Feeding America reports that one in eight Americans is defined as food insecure, which means they have experienced difficulty providing enough food for all family members. When it comes to the financial perspective, the USDA estimates that Americans waste more than $160 billion in food per year.
“The current results suggest that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste may be critical. Practically, increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be an essential component to reducing food waste,” the researchers comment.
The study points out that some efforts to reduce and re-purpose food waste at the individual and institutional level have already been proposed – however, further research into the problem is very much needed to better see the effectiveness of these efforts as well as to understand how reducing food waste can contribute to savings at the household level.
Consumer education is a hugely important part of finding a way out of the excessive food waste problem – education as to how we should store and prepare produce so that less of it eventually finds its way into the trashcan, as well as education on the consequences of food waste.
Some retailers have already joined in the efforts to reduce waste – Whole Foods sorts food waste at their stores, and Trader Joe’s donates items to food banks. Although there will always be cases of food occasionally going bad and being tossed, there are ways to make the amount of it that we waste as small as possible – and it simply makes sense to try to do that.
To learn more about how you can reduce food waste in your home, check out these resources:
- 5 Ways to Waste Less Food and Help the Planet
- 10 Ways to Adopt a Zero Waste Lifestyle
- How to Compost Without a Compost Bin
- How to Get Started With Composting
- So You Made Compost – Now Here’s What to do With It!
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