By: Camryn Murray, Winthrop University Nutrition Student
Did you know that, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 40% of food in
the U.S. is thrown away each year? This equates to about 133 billion pounds of food and 161 billion dollars that is wasted by the entire country, and about 1500 dollars that is wasted per household. “Food waste” is a term for all of the edible food that is discarded in retail or by individuals, despite being fit for consumption.
How does food waste affect you?
There are several benefits of reducing food waste:
Businesses benefit from lowering food waste because it lowers food costs
Donating whole, unsold food can result in tax write-offs, giving businesses and farms more money when tax season comes around
Including less food in the garbage can result in decreased trash volume and lower waste disposal costs in certain areas
Households could save up to $1500 per year, or $370 per person by lowering food waste
Wasting food also means wasting the water, feed, electricity, energy, and labor that went into growing, processing, and transporting that food
Wasting our resources leads to higher food cost and negative environmental effects
Food waste emits methane gas that is 28-36 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and contributes to 14% of human-related methane emissions and contributes to 8% of greenhouse gas emissions
1 in 6 households with children are unsure where their next meal will come from, and reducing food waste by only 15% could help cut the number of food insecure Americans in half
9 ways to reduce food waste at home:
Check your kitchen before you go to the store to avoid buying things you don’t need
Meal prep your meals so that all of the food in your kitchen is accounted for during the week
Store fruits and vegetables properly to extend shelf life, and only buy as much as you will eat in 1 week
Buy the “ugly” produce or produce that is imperfect or oddly shaped
Compost waste in your backyard in a compost container
Create new recipes using your leftovers, like soups or casseroles
Ask for smaller portions in a restaurant when you are not that hungry or share a meal with a friend and make sure to take your leftovers home to eat later
Use the “first in, first out” rule and make sure to eat older foods first
Donate any extra, unspoiled food products that you know you will not use or need to a local organization
Examples of companies and organizations that focus on food waste reduction:
Misfits Market or Hungry Harvest: sells sustainably sourced organic “ugly” produce
Feeding Charlotte: partners with local businesses to distribute excess food to local nonprofit charities that feed the hungry
Feeding America: the largest United States hunger relief organization
Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina: food bank in Charlotte, NC that partners with local warehouses and small agencies
Food Waste Reduction Alliance: seeks to reduce the amount of food waste generated, donates food to those in need, recycles food waste, and diverts food from landfills
McCullum-Gomez C. Food Waste, climate change, and hunger - today's Dietitian Magazine. Today's Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/JJ20p36.shtml. Published 2020. Accessed October 14, 2022.
Romi Londre RDN. 7 ways to reduce food waste. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/7-ways-to-reduce-food-waste-in-your-kitchen. Published June 4, 2021. Accessed October 14, 2022.
Why should we care about food waste? USDA. https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/why#:~:text=Most%20people%20don't%20realize,now%20and%20in%20the%20future. Accessed October 14, 2022.