United States ranks Second in the World for food waste
Investigative Report By Michael Derek Roberts
Remember “Waste not, want not?” Sage advice. Right? Not for America in 2018, the richest nation in the history of the modern world. According to ReFED (www.refed.com) an organization dedicated to ending food waste and bring awareness to the insane madness that’s driving this phenomenon, today food loss is valued at $218 billion in the United States. The cost of food waste to American farmers is $15 billion per year, along with $2 billion for U.S. manufacturers and $57 billion for American consumer-facing businesses. The United States now stand as the second largest food wastrel in the world – behind Australia. By contrast, the countries rates as those with the least food waste are China and Greece.
This monumental and colossal national food waste is exposed in stark, naked relief when one understands that 1 in 8 Americans struggles EVERY DAY with hunger. For example, in 2015, 42,238,000 people were food insecure in communities all across America – including Brooklyn and New York City’s Caribbean-American immigrant community. Food insecurity exists in every county in America. Millions of people are still struggling to get by because of chronic and long-term underemployment, stagnant wages and rising costs of living. To these poor Americans, food has become an unaffordable luxury.
According to Feeding America (https://www.fhfh.org), as of 2016, 40.6 million people (12.7%) live in poverty. The organization’s comprehensive 2014 study found that 57% of client households served by Feeding America food banks said 66% had to choose between medical care and food, and 69% had to choose between utilities and food. Moreover, the madness does not strop there – just one-third of food waste in the U.S. could end food insecurity and hunger if it could be successfully distributed to those in need. In New York City, it is estimated that over 1 million children go to bed hungry each night.
Some Causes of American Food Waste
Admittedly, the main causes and sources of food waste vary among countries. In the U.S., nearly 85 percent of food waste takes place in stores, restaurants, and homes. This compounded by expiration date confusion. Label confusion is believed to account for 20 percent of consumer waste, at a value of a whopping $29 billion. Up to 90 percent of American households occasionally trash still fresh food. The variety of labeling practices, including “best-before”, “sell-by” and “use by” cause confusion. In response, right now there are efforts underway to approve a plan to standardize food date labels globally, with the lofty goal of cutting food waste in half by 2025.
Poor Practices at Home: Households throwaway food for a variety of reasons. Affluence is often cited as a factor and is undoubtedly a major contributor. However, the root causes often come down to poor planning, poor practices, and a lack of awareness. Buying or preparing too much food, cooking food badly, or forgetting about items in the back of the fridge all can lead to more food in the trash or compost. Improper storage practices, including a lack of attention to storage container usage, and temperature controls, also result in waste.
Overly Large Packages and Portions: Overly large containers and portions result in a lot of wasted food. Large bulk packs can encourage shoppers to buy too much in hopes of achieving net savings. The result is a false economy if half the package ends up getting tossed when it goes bad. Likewise, cooking and serving too much food can result in a wasted surplus. Cafeterias can reduce food waste by eliminating trays and utilizing smaller plates. After the University of Massachusetts Amherst eliminated trays from its dining halls, post-consumer food waste shrunk by 30 percent.
Inadequate Communication and Collaboration: Perishable food donations can be unpredictable. Food banks may not be aware of them, or due to timing, may not have time to respond to opportunities. Donation software solutions such as Spoiler Alert, Zero Percent, and Food Rescue helping to improve communication between food surplus generators and food banks, enabling the earlier identification and pickup of surplus food.
The Quest for the Perfect Produce: In response to market forces, including competition between food production companies, retailers have, over the years, increasingly come to compete on product appearance, requiring only the biggest and the best of fresh produce items in order to boost local sales. So crops that fail in appearance can result in produce rejections of 20 percent to 40 percent. Reports say that, for example, one cucumber grower estimated that 75 percent of his rejected product was edible. By utilizing imperfect produce—items that may be differently shaped, sized or colored, food waste can be reduced.
Here’s the horrible conclusion:
In America, 1 in 6 children may not know where they will get their next meal. For the nearly 13 million kids in the U.S. facing hunger, getting the energy they need to learn and grow can be a day-in, day-out challenge.
- 12.9 million children lived in food-insecure households
- 13.4 million children or approximately 18% of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.
(Source: Feeding America)
The New York City food/hunger crisis. In New York City alone, 424,307 people live in food insecure homes that include at least one person working. In New York City, an average of 171,197 senior residents lived in food insecure households between 2013 and 2015. These numbers, are still at higher levels than they were prior to the recession between 2006-2008, where an average of 132,113 NYC seniors were living in food insecure households, representing a 30 percent difference.