As Americans, we are not food savvy and most of us do not think beyond the boundaries of the grocery stores. Because of mass consumerism, there are negative effects on our resources.
Food Waste in America
According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), it costs 10 percent of our U.S. energy budget, 50 percent of our land and 80 percent of our freshwater supplies to produce food in America. However, 40 percent of this American-produced food goes uneaten and straight into our landfills, costing us $165 billion.
This amount of waste is uncommon. In America, we waste 10 times as much food as those in Southeast Asia. Actually, we waste 50 percent more food today than we did in the 1970s. In general, every American wastes 20 pounds of food per month. And the average home wastes 25 percent of their yearly food and beverage budget (between $1,350- $2,275).
Even small changes can make all the difference. According to the NRDC, if we reduce our food losses by 15 percent we would be able to feed an extra 25 million Americans every year. This is important because one out of six Americans “lack a secure supply of food.”
So, what do we waste the most? According to recent data, only 48 percent of our fruits and vegetables are consumed (52 percent are wasted). Only 50 percent of our seafood and 62 percent of our grain products are eaten, the rest ultimately is thrown away too.
Food Waste From Farm to Table
Food goes from the farm to the plate in five steps. So much food is lost during production when farmers don’t harvest them due to lack of demand. During the handling stage, good food is thrown away due to blemishes or being the wrong shape or size. In the packaging and distribution stages, packaging damage, and inconsistent refrigeration cause food loss.
However, most of the food is lost by consumers (in food services and households). Food is wasted with restaurant’s oversized portions and excessive food supply. In households, bulk purchases, impulse buys, poor meal planning, and simple unawareness costs the most food.
3 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Fortunately, the NRDC lists three food waste solutions.
- Businesses. Food that doesn’t meet the size and weight standards could be donated to those in need. Think about day old bread or products that may be passed their stamped “expiration dates,” but are still consumable items. And waste management rules can help reduce waste too.
- Government. We need further food waste studies which will help increase public awareness. And we need to take action at state and local government areas.
- Consumers. We need to shop wisely and freeze unused ingredients. We should also serve smaller portions and save leftovers. Shop at farmers’ markets where you can get locally sourced produces– vegetables, meats, preserved jams, and canned goods.
For more information consider this NRDC report.