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Food Waste: The Problem May be Bigger Than You Think

Think big.  Think Sear’s Tower big and then multiply by 44.

That is approximately the volume of food that is lost from the U.S. food supply annually at retail food stores, restaurants, and homes combined.

Now think of all the labor, land, water, fertilizer, and other inputs that went into growing that food. It would take far more than a mega-city of skyscrapers to contain it all.  Production of wasted food pulls all these resources away from uses that may be more beneficial to society – and it generates impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet.  The environmental footprint of food waste starts at agricultural production and extends through to food processing, transportation, retail, preparation and/or disposal, depending on where along the way the food is discarded.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that electricity production and transportation accounted for about 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2011.  Food-related energy use accounts for a sizeable share of these energy-related emissions: USDA estimates that food-related energy use was 14 percent of the national energy budget in 2002.

Now think of how easy it would be to reduce food waste in your daily life.  If we work together, we can build a different legacy than the skyscraper-sized piles of food waste we are currently building.

To get started, I hope you will join us on June 4th when USDA and EPA launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.  Until then, you can learn more at www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/

7 Responses to “Food Waste: The Problem May be Bigger Than You Think”

  1. Kip Kolesinskas says:

    This is another benefit of having working lands close to population centers. Direct sales to consumers/institutions, etc., less storage, distribution miles, and processing can mean less waste. Farms near were people live can also help compost and recycle/reuse food waste for animal feed, fertilizer, and biofuels.

  2. Henry Ahern says:

    Think of the effect the draft rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act will have on this. More transportation from large factory farms, less locally produced food, more spoilage during shipping and handling. The rules as written need to have comments from everyone supporting local food production.

  3. Gary Oppenheimer says:

    AmpleHarvest.org, connecting millions of home gardeners who’ve grown too much food to local food pantries in a nationwide solution to food waste, hunger, nutrition and community engagement. Visit http://www.AmpleHarvest.org/TEDx to learn more.

  4. Janet O'Dell says:

    Restaurants and others with garbage food could give the spoils to farmers to feed livestock- recycle the food or compost it.

  5. Kathleen Weil says:

    Not to mention the amount of unused/unopened food thrown out daily from elementary school lunches. Visit https://www.facebook.com/FoodBus to see how we are helping to recover food and reduce waste.

  6. Jim Steffen says:

    Open hauling is the single greatest barrier to recovering useable food and composting food wastes for rural and urban farms and gardens. Check out http://localfoods.org/10.html for more.

    Jim Steffen
    Massena Farms

  7. MrNguyen says:

    Think of the effect the draft rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act will have on this. More transportation from large factory farms, less locally produced food, more spoilage during shipping and handling

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