Every year, 30 percent of all food produced worldwide is lost to waste: that's 1.3 billion tons lost.1 In the U.S. alone, Americans throw away $165 billion dollars worth of food per year, wasting 50 percent more food per capita, now, than they did in the 1970s.2
Here's how that breaks down: 3
- Farming: Roughly 7 percent of the produce that's grown in the United States simply gets stranded on fields each year.
- Post-harvest and packing: After crops have been gathered from the fields, farmers tend to cull produce to make sure it meets minimum standards for size, color, and weight.
- Processing and distribution: Plenty of food gets trimmed in the manufacturing stage, though much of it is inedible anyway. Still, there's also a fair bit of avoidable waste.
- Retail and grocery stores: The USDA estimates that supermarkets toss out $15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables alone each year.
- Food service and restaurants: In restaurants, a good chunk of food is lost in the kitchen. And, on average, diners leave about 17 percent of their food uneaten. The report notes that portion sizes are a big reason for this, as portions have ballooned in the past 30 years.
- Households: According to various estimates, American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. This can cost the average family between $1,365 to $2,275 annually.
- Disposal: Only 3 percent of thrown-out food in the United States is composted. Most end up in landfills, where they decompose and release methane, a powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas. In fact, about 23 percent of U.S. methane emissions comes from landfill food.
What to do at home?
- Root-to-Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable, 2013, by Tara Duggan.
- A list of some produce items and how long they stay fresh.
—Via One Green Planet
- Hints for making greens last longer.
—Via Huffington Post
- Freezing various foods, such as hummus and avocados.
—Via Huffington Post.
- A Washington, D.C. brewery and a restaurant collaborate on spent-grain bread loaves for a local charity.
- And, from Pounds to Pocket, an infographic on "How to make fresh food last longer."
Sources for the infographic: here.
- The initial inspiration for this post came from this January 2015 post at Huff Post Taste.
- 1 According to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2014.
- 2 Science Direct, 2012.
- 3 Analysis is from the National Resources Defense Council, as reported by the Washington Post, 2012.
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