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Food Waste is Real: Half Of All Food Produced in America Is Discarded

EmmamHowe MA, United States 0 Ratings 33 Discussions 1 Group posts

Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development

Did you know that the average American family of four wastes 1,160 pounds of food every year (roughly a quarter of all the food they buy)? Or that the average american throws away 20 pounds of food every month, losing between $28 and $43? OR, how about that the irrigation used to grow the food we throw away could be used to provide nine million people with clean water? Though these sound like overstated statistics, they are facts.

According to a recent government tally, about 60 million tons of produce worth about $60 billion is wasted by retailers and consumers every year--which is one third of all food produced in America. Astonishingly, that number is only a “downstream” measure. “In more than two dozen interviews, farmers, packers, wholesalers, truckers, food academics and campaigners described the waste that occurs “upstream.” This includes slightly blemished fruits and vegetables that are simply left in the field or left to rot in a warehouse in order to save producers money and time when it comes to harvesting those goods even though these products are fresh and of high quality. In America, farmers and food producers and retailers hold themselves (or are held?) to unrealistic “blemish free” standards, meaning they often reject perfectly good produce, which may simply have a bruise or be misshapen in order to make a profit. But this neglect of perfectly good produce adds up. In fact, when retail waste is factored in, experts say the amount of food wasted comes close to half of all produce grown.

Think tanks such as the World Resources Institute and Imperfect Produce strive to create better measurements to accurately assess how much food Americans waste. Imperfect Produce, the subscription delivery service for “ugly” or “blemished” food in the San Francisco Bay area, estimates that about one-fifth of all fruit and vegetables are dumped in landfills because they don’t live up to the industry’s high standards of perfection. About one-third of food is wasted around the world each year--1.6 billion tons of produce a year, costing the globe over $1 trillion. That is enough waste to cover 60% of London as well as 100% of all five New York boroughs and New Jersey combined.

Food waste is also creating financial problems for families across the globe. In fact, this largely preventable loss poses a direct threat to worldwide efforts to fight climate change, hunger, and poverty. Yet food experts now realize that in order to effectively be able to fight these other issues, we must first address food waste. In fact, food waste accounts for roughly 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions--more emissions than that of whole countries, more than India or Russia. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is the single largest component of all US landfills and incinerators. This is very dangerous as Food dumps serve as a giant sources of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is even more potent than CO2.

So what is being done about this important issue? Fortunately, both the US and the globe are beginning to acknowledge the issue and the need to take action. The Obama administration and the UN have recently pledged cut “avoidable food waste” in half by 2030. Food producers and food/retail chains across the globe have also pledged their support for an important food waste initiative called the ReFED, which is a data-driven guide for businesses, government, funders, and nonprofits, aiming to collectively reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.

Experts also are quick to acknowledge we are only at the cusp of beginning to deal with this colossal issue. Yet, there is hope as some supermarket chains and industry groups in the US are already making it their goal to feature ugly produce sections. One major grocery chain, Raley's, which has more than 100 stores in California and Nevada, is planning to launch a pilot program called “Real Good” produce in 10 Northern California stores late July of 2106. The goal is to encourage customers to see “funky-looking double cherries or an apple that may look like a reject” as “the underdogs of the produce aisle,” since Raley's Megan Burritt believes Americans love a good underdog story. Though there is still much work to be done, it is encouraging to see countries and companies taking the initial steps to bring awareness to the issue. What do you think about this issue? What sort of ways do you combat food waste in your own home? How do you think we can bring further awareness to the issue? Comment below with your thoughts.

For more information on food waste and food waste initiatives, see the following links:

http://www.refed.com/?sort=economic-value-per-ton
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/us-food-waste-ugly-fruit-vegetables-perfect?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=post&utm_term=crops,imperfect,food%20waste&utm_campaign=Food&__surl__=IgONd&__ots__=1468505616746&__step__=1
http://www.sustainabletable.org/5664/food-waste

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