Food Matters July 2016

Food Waste

  • Every year, consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million tons)
  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted.
  • In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions
  • In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month
  • Over 97% of food waste generated ends up in the landfill.
  • 33 million tons of food makes its way to landfills each year. 
  • US per capita food waste has progressively increased by ~50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 calories per person per day or 150 trillion calories per year.

Food waste is an economic and environmental disaster and based on this waste, as Kimbal Musk, co-owner of The Kitchen, says: "It is bullshit that we have a food production problem".

There are lots of efforts underway aimed at diverting excess food from landfills to hungry mouths and other uses, like composting. Religious groups are joining the battle against food waste.

But, what's been lacking is a comprehensive plan to identify the most cost-effective approaches.

Now, a new data-driven road map to reduce food waste aims to fill the void. The road map is the creation of a big group of collaborators — including food businesses, environmentalists, anti-hunger organizations, policymakers and investors.

"Reducing food waste is one of the most tangible ways we can all help contribute to a healthier planet," says Sarah Vared, interim director of ReFED, the group that created the road map. "It [the road map] identifies actions that can be taken today," says Vared.


Congress Woman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has sponsored a bill that is trying to gain momentum standardizing date labeling (when to throw out and allowing past date food to be used in other purposes). Civil Eats featured an article on the lobbying process to get this bill moving (5 Things I learned while Lobbying Congress on Food Waste, June 8, 2016, Jonathan Bloom). 

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