Americans waste up to 40% of the food that makes it onto grocery shelves, into their kitchens or that crosses their plates, which makes the potential consequences of the ongoing drought even more painful, reports the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
That waste costs close to $165 billion per year. Indeed, the average American family of four throws out about $2,275 in food every year, reports the NRDC.
Recovering even 15% of that waste would be enough to feed about 25 million Americans a year. What’s more, it would address a serious environmental issue: uneaten food accounts for approximately 23% of the methane emissions in the US, as it rots in landfills.
“As a country, we’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path–that’s money and precious resources down the drain,” says Dana Gunders, NRDC project scientist with the food and agriculture program. “With the price of food continuing to grow, and drought jeopardizing farmers nationwide, now is the time to embrace all the tremendous untapped opportunities to get more out of our food system."
There are several ways the US could address this problem, says Gunders, including:
- Set national goals for waste reduction, by clarifying date labels on food, encouraging recovery and improving public awareness. A particular focus should be fresh produce: about half of the nationwide supply of fruits and vegetables goes uneaten every year.
- Encourage business to streamline their operations to reduce food losses and save money. For example, the Stop and Shop grocery chain saves an estimated $100 million annually simply by addressing freshness in its perishables department.
Of course, both measures are probably pointless without changes in peoples’ behavior. America doesn’t just need to think about farming and producing food more sustainably, it seriously needs to reduce food waste.
For more data on America’s food waste problem and the benefits of slimming it down: