More than one-third of all food produced in the United States goes uneaten, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This waste contributes to problems ranging from hunger and malnutrition to environmental and economic concerns.
“From the farm, through the production and distribution process, to the grocery store, to the home — wherever there is food, there is unfortunately food waste,” says Lauri Wright, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson. “In a world of limited resources and growing populations, wasting food is a luxury we can’t afford.”
Reducing, reusing, and recycling wasted food can assist with feeding the estimated 49 million Americans who are food-insecure, reduce agricultural pressures on the environment and increase business efficiencies for those producing and selling food.
The majority of wasted food ends up in landfills and then breaks down to produce methane and carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change. Food in landfills contributes to nearly one-quarter of all methane emissions in the United States. Composting food and diverting it from entering landfills helps prevent the creation of global greenhouse gas emissions and protects the environment.
Wasted food is not only detrimental to the environment but also costs consumers, businesses and taxpayers substantial amounts of money. An American family of four throws out an average $1,484 worth of edible food a year, while nationally, the costs associated with food waste exceeds $1 billion annually in local tax funds.
While millions of Americans worry how they will feed their children, the amount of safe edible food wasted in the Unites States continues to soar. If Americans wasted just 15 percent less food, it would be enough to feed 25 million people. Instead of throwing away untouched food, support the food-insecure by donating it to food banks.
Reduce Food Waste at Home
Consumers are responsible for the majority of food waste in the United States and can play a major role in its reduction.
“Reduce food waste by being a smarter shopper. Only buy the amount of perishable foods that you will be able to eat in a week,” Wright says. “If you do have leftovers, and they are still safe to eat, donate them. If they are not safe to eat, compost them. While not all wasted food is edible, much of it can be recovered and repurposed.”
Registered dietitian nutritionists are uniquely qualified to help reduce food loss and waste by educating individuals, families, communities, business and industry. For more information on reducing food waste, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation’s Future of Food initiative and the Foundation’s “2016 State of America’s Wasted Food Report.”
Food waste is a global problem with solutions at the local and even individual level. Get the entire family involved in taking steps to reduce waste in your home.