Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wasted Food

A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council states that $165 billion of food a year is wasted in the United States, which is about 40%. This is a tremendous waste of resources. To give us a better understanding of how all this food is being wasted, the report tracked the food down the system and demonstrated why so much is being wasted.

One category is farming, where around 7% of produce gets thrown away each year. This may be for a variety of reasons. Farmers sometimes plant more crops then necessary in case of any natural problems and some fruits and vegetables are simply left because they aren't the right size or color. A great way to combat this is through more gleaning programs, like we have in Del Norte County, where volunteers come and take any leftover produce to a food bank.

Another category is processing and distribution. A lot of food gets wasted during processing, especially when it sits too long without adequate refrigeration. Grocery stores are another big source of wasted food in our food system. Reports show that they throw away around $15 billion of unsold produce a year. Also, each store throws away $2,300 of food products a day because it is passing it's expiration date and they do not want their store to look bad. It is a shame that more stores do not donate this food instead of simply tossing it in the trash.

The majority of wasted food comes from restaurants. For one thing, people dining leave 17% of their food uneaten, and then the rest is thrown away. This is mostly because portion sizes have increased so much over the years. Also, in many fast food restaurants good food is just thrown away. McDonald's has a rule that fries must be thrown out after 7 minutes, which seems a little unnecessary

Another big place food is wasted is in the household, where between 14-25% of food people buy is thrown away. People buy more food than they can eat, and with restaurants and fast food so readily available, that food sits and goes bad and is thrown in the trash. Consumers need to be more conscious of the food choices that we make and plan meals out in advance to avoid this.

This report also says that only 3% of food that is thrown away is composted. Most food ends up in landfills, which causes a release of methane. Composting could help to reduce this and the amount of waste we have. It is important for America to become more conscious of how much food they eat, and how much they throw away, so we can improve upon the high levels of food insecurity and ensure everyone has enough to eat.

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