Americans Throw Away Almost Half of All Food, Waste $165 Billion

Food waste could help feed millions of hungry people, but instead puts an extra burden on our landfills.

Annual food waste in the United States accounts for 40 percent of our total food, according to new research from the Natural Resources Defense Council. (Photo: Katrina Wittkamp via Getty Images)

Aug 22, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

Americans throw away 40 percent of food in the U.S. every year, or about $165 billion, according to a new issue paper from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“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,” said Dana Gunders, NRDC project scientist with the food and agriculture program, in a statement. 

The startling statistic is part of an analysis from the nonprofit environmental group regarding waste at every level of the U.S. food supply chain. According to the NRDC study, the average family of four creates up to $2,275 in food waste every year.

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There are bigger consequences to this food waste as well: the uneaten food accounts for almost a quarter of the country’s methane emissions, and wastes the same amount in freshwater, energy, and land.

The report found problems at all levels of food consumption. Grocery stores waste about $15 billion in unsold fruits and veggies, which could be partly avoidable if store displays weren’t excessively stocked with produce. When it comes to restaurant meals, servings are often too big and people toss their leftovers.

If that weren’t enough, food waste is the biggest component of solid waste in landfills. Yet all of this uneaten food could go to feed 25 million Americans every year.

The report urges U.S. consumers to follow the lead of European Union and the United Kingdom, which have both started campaigns to convince people to waste less food.

“No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it’s not being eaten, it is not a good use of resources,” said Gunders. “Fortunately, there are ways to tackle the food waste problem, and everyone can play a role.”

How much food waste does your family make every month? Let us know in the comments.

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