Food waste is “when an edible item goes unconsumed, such as food discarded by retailers due to undesirable color or blemishes and plate waste discarded by consumers” (USDA). A 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 40 percent of food in the US is never eaten.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 37 million tons of food waste was generated in 2013 alone. Food waste occurs at every level of production, including at the farm, manufacturer, business, and consumer levels. Most food waste occurs in the home, with Americans wasting $144 billion on food a year.
Food waste not only happens in our homes but also on college campuses. The average college student generates 142 pounds of food waste a year, according to Recycling Works.
The environmental impact is huge: food waste is the single largest component going into municipal landfills, and quickly generates methane, a greenhouse gas that has an impact 25 times greater on climate change than carbon dioxide. This makes landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.
Food waste just isn’t an environmental issue, it’s also a social problem. In America, at the same time that we waste 40% of our food supply, one in seven people are food insecure. In 2014, over 48 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including more than 15 million children. In 2013, 5.4 million seniors (adults over the age 60), or 9 percent of all seniors were food insecure.
What can we do about it?
The EPA’s food recovery hierarchy prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food. The first priority to divert wasted food is to feed hungry people. Since 2001, CKP has recovered over 6 million pounds of food – food that would have otherwise been thrown away. We then used that food to create over 3 million healthy, balanced meals for those in need.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Food Waste
A fun and easy to understand the causes and problems of food waste!
Reducing wasted food at home
Check out these easy ways to avoid food waste in your own home.
Map the Meal Gap
Learn more about Food Insecurity in your own community.