The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released the second edition of its food waste report yesterday, following up on the 2012 report highlighting progress and work still needed in assuaging the nation’s growing food waste habit.
“America throws out more than 400 pounds of food per person per year,” NRDC notes. “And when that food is wasted, so are the resources that go into producing it, including 21 percent of freshwater used by the U.S. agricultural industry. Wasted food also generates climate change pollution equivalent to 37 million cars per year.”
According to the report, just a one-third redirect of the country’s food waste could essentially eliminate hunger in the U.S.
The largest source of food waste is somewhat surprisingly not an industry issue, but happening at the consumer level instead. Uneaten food at home, says NRDC, accounts for more than “grocery stores, restaurants or any other single part of the supply chain.” But the report highlights a recent poll which found 74 percent of consumers polled cite food waste as an increasingly important issue.
“The good news is that this means that we, as individuals and families, can make a big dent in the problem just by taking small steps in our daily lives to keep more food out of the trash,” writes JoAnne Berkenkamp, NRDC’s senior advocate in the Food & Agriculture program. In tandem with the report launch, NRDC and the Ad Council have partnered with Blue Hill restaurant co-owner and chef Dan Barber, as well as Amazon’s Alexa, in a new public service campaign called “Save the Food.”
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“Just over 40 percent of all the food that goes to waste in the United States gets wasted in our homes,” notes Berkenkamp. "It’s nothing more and nothing less than you and me throwing food into the trash, down the disposer, or onto the compost pile. And when food goes to waste, so does everything it took to get it to our plates—water, land, energy, labor and money.”
The NRDC report, entitled “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill” also highlights significant industry and policy achievements as well. “In September 2015, both the United Nations and the U.S. federal government embraced goals to cut food waste 50% by 2030. Many states have incentivized food donation to hungry people. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new guidance to standardize food date labels—which are a major source of consumer confusion and waste.”
Food industry businesses have also increased food waste reduction commitments, with more than 400 retailers and manufacturers pledging to halve their food waste by 2025.
NRDC is continuing its efforts to increase policy and industry changes, and the ambitious “Save the Food,” aims to make reducing food waste the new bring-your-own grocery tote bag.
"If we all start making small changes in our daily lives, together we can make a big difference,” says Berkenkamp. “Everyone who eats can be a part of the solution.”
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