From production and processing to distribution and retail, there are hundreds of opportunities to create food waste in the American food system. Unfortunately, the real numbers tell a scarier story than you may have thought.
America Wastes More Than 1/3 of Food Produced
Approximately 26% of all edible food in the United States is wasted at the consumer level alone, according to the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems. That equates to about $455 per person, per year or approximately $145 million dollars of edible waste for the American population as a whole.
But it’s not just consumers who are creating waste. The American food system produces waste from farming and packaging all the way to distribution and retail. In fact, so much food is lost from farm to fork that, in all, an estimated 30-40% of the total food supply produced in America is wasted.
Food Waste is a Worldwide Problem
Globally, consumers in industrialized nations waste over 222 million tons of food each year. Inefficiencies in the food system lead to losses in staggering amounts with approximately 30% of cereals and grains; 40-50% of produce; and 20% of oilseeds, meat, and dairy produced never consumed.
How Can So Much Food be Wasted?
One of the leading causes of food waste is spoilage. When you follow the path that food travels to bring food from farm to table, you’ll find a areas that contribute to a high rate of spoilage. For example, overproduction of certain foods, such as cereal grains; losses in farming, packaging, and distribution; and over-purchasing on the consumer level, all provide room for loss.
On average, American consumers waste 20 lbs. of food per person, per month. That means that every nine people waste enough food in a year to feed one other person – approximately 1,996 pounds per year. To make matters worse, in the United States there’s an acute problem with the distribution of resources – and food is no exception. There are people who don’t have enough to eat, while others have so much food in their cupboards that it spoils before they can eat it.
How You Can Help
Spoilage is the leading contributor to food waste for consumers, so aim to minimize the amount of food that spoils in your household.
Easy to implement solutions:
- Shop for perishables more frequently as opposed to buying in bulk. Plan meals ahead of time
- Keep track of what you use so you can adjust how much you purchase next time
- Explore more options for use and storage like freezing, canning, and freeze drying
- Donate whatever edibles you can’t use or preserve
- Compost what you can’t save
Also be sure to support sustainable food businesses such as food rescue organizations or sustainable food advocates.
Learn more about what Craveity is doing to support sustainable businesses or visit the Craveity Blog.