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Americans and Our Disastrous, Wasteful Habits

Reported by foodem.com, the online wholesale food marketplace-

While other countries are doing research and implementing promising solutions to combat the issue of food waste, the U.S. remains at a standstill. This issue is far from going away as it continues to worsen, stressing the environment, budgets and farming to say the least.

First, let’s define food waste. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste is any food substance, raw or cooked, which is discarded, or intended or required to be discarded. Food wastes are the organic residues generated by the handling, storage, sale, preparation, cooking, and serving of foods. Food manufacturing and processing facilities, supermarkets, institutions such as schools, prisons, and hospitals, restaurants and food courts and households are all responsible for producing food waste.

As you can see, even by definition, food waste accounts for more than just the wasting of food. To paint a bigger picture, a recent study released by Dana Gunders, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, revealed shocking trends and inefficiencies found in our food system. It tracks and analyzes each phase of the food system, identifies food losses at every phase and offers improvement suggestions.

Stat Shock

For starters the report points out the imbalances between resource expenditures and consumption. Getting food from farm to fork uses 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, 50% of U.S. land and utilizes 80% of freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, nearly half of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten (close to 20lbs. per person, per month). Furthermore, most of that unconsumed food is housed in landfills and accounts for 25% of U.S. methane emissions. One of the most disturbing statistics the report denotes is, while 1 in 6 Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables, food saved by reducing just 15% of food losses could feed more than 25 million Americans every year.

Those stats alone indicate the reality of a huge, complex issue that needs attention.

Offered Solutions

No matter what, the food waste issue must be tackled collectively; everyone must participate. Food growers, buyers and sellers, food manufacturers and distributors, government officials and agencies, and businesses and corporations must invest in food waste reduction strategies to ensure the longevity of our food supply chain, our resources and our environment.

Below are 4 specific recommendations the report offers for food waste reduction:

  • The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study for food losses in our food system and establish national goals for food waste reduction. One key action will be to standardize and clarify the meaning of date labels on food so that consumers stop throwing out items due to misinterpretation. A waste reduction organization in the United Kingdom has estimated this type of clarification could prevent about 20 percent of wasted food in households.
  • State and local governments should lead by setting targets and implementing food waste prevention campaigns in their jurisdictions as well as their own operations. One key opportunity for this is education alongside municipal composting programs.
  • Businesses should start by understanding the extent and opportunity of their own waste streams and adopting best practices. For example, Stop and Shop was able to save an estimated $100 million annually after an analysis of freshness, shrink, and customer satisfaction in their perishables department.
  • Americans can help reduce waste by learning when food goes bad, buying imperfect produce, and storing and cooking food with an eye to reducing waste.

What moves will you make to curb the amount of food waste your household or company produces? We’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments area.

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