Food Waste and Why You Should Care

By Delacey Foster, MS, RD

As you finish your weekly trip to the market with five brimming bags in tow, feeling accomplished as you head out the door, you gingerly place two bags of carefully selected food items into the trash bin and load the other three bags into the car…and away you go. Wait! Who would do this?! Well…we all do, you, me, and the average American consumer in between. Absurd?! Sure, but it’s true. 40% of perfectly edible food in America ends up rotting in landfills.

Just how much is 40 percent?

  • Over 130 billion pounds of food
  • Enough to feed 2 billion people each year
  • Over 200 billion dollars’ worth
  • Approximately 141 trillion calories (that’s 1,250 calories per person, per day!)
  • Over 20% of landfill volume
  • And right along with the food goes 20% of our freshwater supply used to produce it

Why should you care? 

Today

There are over 40 million Americans that do not know where they will get their next meal, while millions of tons of food are wasted each year. Diverting just 15% of food from landfills would be enough to cut the number of food-insecure Americans in half.

Tomorrow

food insecurity

The days of abundance will soon transition into days of scarcity. Experts predict we will run out of food by 2050 due to inadequate land, water, and energy for a world packed with 10 billion people. By reducing our waste today, we are giving life to tomorrow.

But food waste is basically compost, right?

The 35 million tons of food that end up in landfills each year is so compacted with other landfill material it does not get the oxygen it needs to decompose as composted food would. As a result, landfilled food waste produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas over 25% more potent than carbon dioxide. Food waste in landfills is the 3rd largest source of methane emission in the US. Greenhouse gases create a blanket effect by trapping in heat and warming our planet. 

What you can do.

  • Buying in bulk leads to food waste, only buy what you know you can reasonably eat.
  • Use leftovers in the next day’s meals.
  • Plan your meals and create a shopping list and stick to it!
  • Be a grocery store hero! Buy those ugly fruits and vegetables others avoid.
  • Check your refrigerator’s temperature to keep foods fresh longer, 34-41F.
  • Practice the “first in first out” rule.
  • Donate unwanted food.
  • Awareness may be our most important weapon in the fight against food waste.
  • Spread the word!