Thursday, June 25, 2015

Food Wastage in the USA is Huge - and Growing!

Americans throw away nearly half of their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report estimates that the average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food. Even worse, there is evidence that there has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s.

It’s especially troubling that at the same time, one in seven Americans, more than 46 million people, including 12 million children, don’t know where their next meal is coming from, according to a study by Feeding America.

Meanwhile, the rest of America continues to throw away unspoiled nutritious food. If we cut our food waste even by a third, there would be enough food for all those people who must rely on food banks and hand-outs to be fully fed.

Why Waste So Much Food?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a typical American household discards 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk, in addition to plenty of fruits and veggies. 

This is because consumers buy more than they can eat, so the food goes bad, or our meals are just too big to eat. 

There is also  too much reliance on “sell-by” and “use-by” dates; these are not federally regulated in the US and do not indicate safety, except on certain baby foods. Most foods can be safely consumed well after their use-by dates. (Here’s a guide to help you decipher what those labels mean.)

Restaurant portions are also generally huge, and often not fully consumed. Clearly, these runaway portion sizes in the American food industry exacerbate the waste issue.”From 1982–2002, the average pizza slice grew 70 percent in calories. The average chicken Caesar salad doubled in calories, and the average chocolate chip cookie quadrupled,” the NRDC study reveals

As NPR reports, farming practices are not without some blame for food wastage as they also account for some of the food waste. 

Peter Lehner, from the NRDC, explains that if food isn’t sold to the best buyer, it can end up in a landfill. “anywhere from 1 percent to 30 percent of farmers’ crops don’t make it to market,” says Lehner. “The prices for fresh fruits and vegetables can go up and down quite a bit, and farmers may plant thinking they will get one price, but, by the time harvest comes around, there’s another price, and it’s not even worth it for them to get to the market.”

It is not just the USA though, with a number of other countries also contributors to significant food waste.

Recently one leading tourist hotel in Switzerland [ a country noted for frugal living] has placed notices in the hotel and especially in restaurants to exhort customers to only take what they need from especially buffets and similar openly available food in eateries within the hotel, following very significant amounts of food being left behind after meals.  This has actually seen a very significant reduction in food waste within the hotel.  In their case, it was mostly Asian tourists who were the culprits.

Have a look yourself the next time you are eating out, especially if it is a buffet breakfast or dinner.  Is there significant food left as table waste?  You might be surprised.

We should all be mindful of how much food is wasted and ensure we do our bit to minimise food waste.  It does save money at your home, and helps the environment too.

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