Food waste – a huge problem

Americans discard nearly 40 million tons of perfectly good food each year

With the pandemic still very wrecking havoc in our lives, it’s easy to ignore many other important problems, many hidden in plain sight One such issue is that of food waste. Here are some sobering statistics.

The United States has the dubious distinction of being the global leader in food waste. America wastes between 30 to 40 percent of its food supply. We discard nearly 40 million tons of food each year. That’s approximately 219 pounds of wasted food per person.

But we’re not the only ones. The UN reports that globally an estimated 17 percent of the food produced each year is wasted. And most of this – 61 percent – happens in homes, although food service accounts for 26 percent and retailers account for 13 percent.

Why does this happen, particularly with so much food insecurity taking place across the globe?

There are a variety of reasons – some practical, some not quite logical but based on perceived true consumer information. These include:

  1. Food being spoiled or the fear that it has or may. Sadly, over 75 percent of Americans toss perfectly good food because of misunderstood food labels like “sell by”, “use by”, “best before” or “best used by”.
  2. Overbuying / mis-assessing how much food you really need so it doesn’t get cooked or used and/or too much take-out leftover for too long.
  3. Farmers throwing out perfectly good food crops because much of them are what’s known as “ugly food” – produce that doesn’t fit the standard “look” of what Americans expect to see.
  4. Worse still, farmers plowing up perfectly good crops because of changes in the market would mean a huge financial loss to them were they to try to sell their harvest.

These reasons may to some make little sense. Yet they are much of what’s behind our huge food waste problem. Is there a solution? Not a “the solution” but there are a number of potential ones. They would require, however, thinking creatively, innovatively – outside the box, if you will. First and foremost, though, it would require a commitment to creating the path towards a solution and bringing stakeholders together to implement that.

Creative minds have solved problems as big if not bigger than this. The question is, how can we effectively address this critical issue and who will take it on?

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