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  • Writer's pictureAbhi Chatterjee

Food Waste In The United States

Between 33-50% of all food produced globally is never eaten


We’re often told or reminded that the world is a busy, popular place.

There are too many people.

There are not enough resources.

Whether this is true or not is not the point of this article, but it is worth mentioning that one of the reasons humans created something called transportation is so that they can move to places with more resources: it’s always been a matter of where the resources are and whether they’re accessible rather than whether there are enough of them. A fact that nicely backs up this statement, is that up to 40% of the food in the United States goes to waste. This wastage was worth over 100 billion dollars more than ten years ago and that number will only have risen in recent years.

How much food is wasted today?

Around the world on average a third of the food produced is wasted. Last year, around 9% of the human population — that’s hundreds of millions — lived in poverty and starvation. There’s more than enough food for everyone, they just can’t access it. What a shame to learn that so much of this is preventable.

Why is it happening?

Perhaps the most obvious reason food wastage occurs is the fact that much food is perishable and spoils after only a few days, especially when it is fresh, unprocessed foods that aren’t covered in unhealthy preservatives. More than this, though, is the problem of culture: we accept and tolerate high amounts of wastage, even if we are becoming more environmentally conscious in general. Unfortunately, there are many other reasons for why food is wasted that occur, too, including:

  • Machinery & equipment failure during the farming process

  • Over-ordering and underconsumption at each end of the process

  • Damage by insects and other animals

  • Contamination

What do we mean by Food Loss & Waste?

For the purposes of this article, and indeed for consideration in the wider context of food, what we mean by Food Loss & Waste is exactly this: Any time in which food that is available and ready for consumption is not consumed for any reason, including the natural loss that occurs during the cooking and production process.

How do we reduce food waste?

Since 2015, the United States has made public its goals around reducing food loss and wastage. The belief is that these goals are eminently achievable, and a positive outcomes for all:

  • Less food sent to landfill

  • More food for families in need

  • Improved efficiency around the production of food such as labor and energy

  • Financial savings

  • Better use of food per person in the United States

But how can we achieve this tangible reduction of waste by 50%? There are some ideas of varying degrees of achievability, including:

  • Preventing the food from being wasted in the first place — easy

  • Recovering food waste and repurposing it — medium

  • Innovating the food development process to be more efficient — hard

There are other options too, like recycling, using to feed animals and composting. Some countries can even use food waste to create biofuel to run vehicles.

About the Food Loss & Waste Protocol:

Launched in 2013, the FLWP is a multi-stakeholder partnership based in Washington DC that has developed accounting and reporting standards that individuals and organisations can use to assess their food loss and waste. A committee of seven credible international organisations forms a steering committee for the FLWP that create useful resources such as papers and more along with guiding the strategic direction of the protocol, most recently updated in April 2021. You can download and use the FLWP’s Value Calculator by following the link below, to:

“Describe and convey the scale and relevance of food loss and waste in terms that may be more meaningful for some audiences than weight.”

This initiative is for American businesses to commit to reducing their food wastage by 50% by 2030 — just under 8 years to go! You can apply here. The form is short and simple. This is a great way to demonstrate a commitment to this ideal and help increase customer loyalty and brand perception in your business.

About the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge:

Another example of America’s commitment to overcoming this challenge is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge. This can be used in conjunction with the other strategies mentioned in this article and goes even further, bestowing participants with useful data management tools that help qualify and quantify the best practices around food waste and loss management. Participants will also receive an annual report that provides more details around this challenging topic. This challenge is relevant to all businesses, even those that are not sure they’ll reach the goal of reducing the loss and waste by 50% to become Champions, so there’s no reason not to get involved.

What to do next:

Hopefully we’ve outlined that there are many opportunities to counter and overcome the challenge of food waste and loss, but the absolute first thing readers should do is continue to educate themselves around the hard facts, data and evidence that this is a problem and choose, culturally, to do something about it.

There are many useful resources and articles you can turn to for further reading before you’re ready to take the steps we’ve outlined in this article above. We wish you the best of luck with the challenge and remain excited about a future in which food waste and loss are at least 50% less of a challenge for humanity.

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