National Consumers League

America: Land of the free, home of the wasteful?

Have you ever wondered what happens to the food you throw away? A quarter to a third of all food worldwide goes to waste, and in America an astonishing 40 percent of our food is wasted. For many Americans, bounty and convenience make it easy to be out of touch with where food comes from and where it ends up. Learn what you can you do about it, starting today!

Since the 1970’s, when industrial farming became a significant means of feeding the public, food waste in the U.S. has increased by 50 percent. While Americans’ growing interest in the origin of their food is a step in the right direction, we need to complete the circle by also taking note of what happens to our food that we toss away. 

Food waste can happen at many points throughout the supply chain but consumers and commercial establishments, like restaurants and grocery stores, are the largest wasters of food. American families throw away 25 percent of the food they purchase which costs a family an estimated $1,350 to $2,275 a year.  Not only is this bad for our wallets, but it’s also bad for the environment. Food waste typically ends up in landfills creating methane gas, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the U.S. The UK estimates that if everyone on earth stopped wasting food that could be eaten, it would have the environmental equivalent of removing every one in four cars from the road. 

We at the National Consumers League found these statistics disturbing and we’ve decided to do something about it.  The League will begin working on a food waste project to educate consumers and put pressure on both federal and local governments to reduce food waste. Improved expiration date labeling, compost pick up, and food handling education are all important steps to help consumers reduce their food waste. 

America may be the land of plenty but there are still plenty of Americans that go hungry every day; One in six to be exact. If we reduced our food waste losses by 15% we could feed 25 million more Americans each year, that’s half of all Americans that are currently food insecure. As a nation, we have no reason to ignore this massive problem.  Both the United Kingdom and the European Union have resolved to drastically reduce their food waste and the United States should follow their lead. As a nation we cannot continue to throw food prematurely or unnecessarily into the garbage as tens of millions Americans struggle to find food to put on the table to feed their families.