Food Waste

Food waste is an increasing problem in the United States. It is not just one sector, but  has multiple contributing factors . It includes waste in restaurants, households, farms, and grocery stores. All of these factors combined equals an exorbitant amount of food wasted. According to National Geographic, 1/3 of America’s food is lost or wasted.

Animated graphic showing food waste in the United States.

“The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted along the chain that stretches from farms to processing plants, marketplaces, retailers, food-service operations, and our collective kitchens.At 2.8 trillion pounds, that’s enough sustenance to feed three billion people. In the United States, the waste is even more egregious: More than 30 percent of our food, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten,” according to an article by the National Geographic.

This number is insane and surprised me. How are we letting all of this food go to waste when we have millions of people all of the world that are starving? At first glance It may seem like an easy problem/solution scenario: Don’t waste food or donate it to people who are hungry. However the issue of food waste, particularly in America,  is a much more complicated problem.

The problem that I find most fascinating is grocery store waste. Grocery stores waste a full 10 percent of the available food supply in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (USDA)

“And all those overstocked grocery stores full to bursting with milk, bags of salad mix, fruit, vegetables, and other items with cosmetic blemishes or surpassed sell-by dates are discarded en masse when they haven’t or can’t be–sold. then there are the rotisserie chickens and baked goods that are made in-house on a daily basis; those items are usually kept out for only one day. What doesn’t sell it thrown away that night, ” author Lindsey Blomberg of Wasted says.

There have been multiple studies and videos made on dumpster diving and the amount of waste grocery stores discard. Major chains and mass market retailers are culprits of this practice because of strict laws and regulations. Although it makes sense that these retailers don’t want customers to get sick from expired food, sometimes it is not expired but the look and feel of certain produce items.  An example of this is lumpy, non shiny apples.

If you think back on your last grocery store visit, imagine walking through the produce aisle. Were any of the apples dull or not perfectly polished? Were there any weird shaped bananas? Did you find any over-ripe avocados? Most likely the answer to all of these questions is no. As Blomberg says there are few “cosmetic blemishes” at grocery stores today. Everything is perfect and perfectly placed.  Although these shiny apples may look appeasing and are pretty stacked high, sometimes their taste is downright awful. And worst, once they become slightly bruised or unappealing to the eye, in the trash they go. This Business Insider article (Here) does a great job of explaining why grocery stores are overstocked, and the fear of expiration dates.

Next up: One solution to this problem.

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