Americans waste about a pound of food per person each day amounting to about 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, a study conducted at the US Department of Agriculture found. This is when one-in-six people in America face hunger and 13 million children are forced to struggle with hunger.
About 150,000 tons of food is tossed out of US households each day, equivalent to about a third of the daily calories that each American consumes. Fruit and vegetables are most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat.
Food Wastage has Far-Reaching Effects
This food wastage has an economic as well as environmental toll. Getting food to our tables eats up 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50% of U.S. land, and swallows 80% of freshwater consumed in the United States. And it’s not just food, 25% of all freshwater and huge amounts of energy and land are also being wasted. Also to be kept in mind is the fact that to produce the unnecessary food huge amounts of chemicals are being used.
But that’s not all. Most wasted food ends up in landfills where organic matter accounts for 16% of U.S. methane emissions. Furthermore, all of that wasted food could feed many of the 46.5 million Americans who use food banks.
Why is Food Waste so Prevalent?
Americans waste 10 times as much food as people who live in Southeast Asia. Part of the food waste problem in the United States is a lack of education and lack of sensitization towards the issue. It is just not the American households who are the culprit, most of the large grocery chains and supermarkets in the country are also hand-in-glove in this crime. While shoppers refuse to buy imperfect-looking fruit, grocers refuse to stock the shelves with any wonky-looking wares. “Grocery stores routinely trash produce for being the wrong shape or containing minor blemishes,” Doug Rauch, the former president of the Trader Joe’s Company said.
The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg reported that, “vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the U.S. are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards.”
Lisa Jahns, a nutritionist at USDA and co-author of the study feels that it is high time now and recommends educating consumers on fruit and vegetable storage in order to reduce food waste. She further added, “Consumers aren’t connecting the dots, [and] they don’t see the cost when they throw food in the trash. At the same time, we don’t want to undermine legitimate food safety concerns and we need to be aware it’s not just the cost of food that’s the issue. It’s the time and energy required to prepare and store food, which often isn’t a priority in a busy household.”
How Big is the Problem?
To fully gauge the scale of this problem, take a look at the 10 shocking statistics:
- Americans throw away $165 billion of food each year.
- 40% of food is wasted in the United States every year.
- 35 million tons of food are wasted in the United States each year.
- The average American household throws away $2,200 of food each year.
- The average American throws away 300 lbs. of food per year.
- More than 20 lbs. of food is wasted per person every month in the United States.
- 20% of food that the average American buys is never eaten.
- 90% of food is thrown away too soon.
- Food waste in American has grown by 204% since 1960 and 50% since 1990.
- Reducing food waste by just 15% would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans every year.