Wasted food is an American epidemic

A WWII-era U.S. government sign encouraging citizens not to waste food. The sign is entitled "Keep it Clean! Don't Waste Food."

Wasted food is a $165 billion problem each year in the U.S. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/U.S. National Archives/Wikipedia)

When you were a child and much more finicky about what you ate, did your parents ever encourage you to be a good boy and become a member of the “Clean Plate Club?” Parents’ concern over proper nutrition for their children notwithstanding, shoveling down food isn’t healthy – but then neither is wasted food. Wasting food is a problem of epidemic proportions in the U.S., according to a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental organization.

Wasted food: It’s not just for the finicky

The kind of wasted food the NRDC study addresses isn’t the scraps from a choosy child’s plate. Unsold fruits and vegetables from grocery stores make up the vast majority of food waste in the United States, according to Reuters. Restaurants that serve excessively large portions to patrons who don’t want to carry food out in a doggie bag. Similarly, consumers who routinely prepare overly large meals and ignore the process of packing away leftovers are a part of the problem.

In total, wasted food in the U.S. amounts to a $165 billion loss, says the NRDC.

“As a country, we’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That’s money and precious resources down the drain,” said NRDC scientist Dana Gunders, who contributed to the food waste study.

If wasting food were a batting average

If wasting food in the U.S. were a baseball batting average, this country would be the first .400 hitter since Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams, who hit .406 in 1941. The NRDC study notes that the U.S. wasters 40 percent of its food supply each and every year. Computed as a national average for a family of four, each American family shovels $2,275 down the garbage disposal annually, all in the form of wasted food. This staggering figure is put into sobering focus by the fact that if food waste could be cut by 15 percent each year, the remainder could feed 25 million Americans each year – and severely retard growth of the landfills, notes the NRDC. Wasted food currently makes up the bulk of all solid waste in U.S. landfills.

Big jump in food waste since the 1970s

Ongoing studies of food waste in America has also unearthed this frightening statistic: Since the 1970s, the amount of food waste generated in the U.S. has jumped by 50 percent, with unsold fruits and vegetables from grocery stores being a major culprit. The NRDC has encouraged the U.S. government and food manufacturing businesses to find ways to conserve and prevent the massive waste of food. Closer study of food losses in the system of food distribution and sale could make a big difference.

“No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it’s not being eaten, it is not a good use of resources,” said Gunders.

So much wasted food

Sources

The Consumerist

Reuters

Wasted Food

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