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Food Waste in U.S. Exceeds 90 Billion Pounds

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June 18, 2013

Americans waste 90 billion pounds of food a year, a new study has found, and the consequences are widespread.

The study, done by the Natural Resources Defense Council, estamed that the average family of four Americans wastes up to $2,275 of food each year, in food that is bought or prepared but not consumed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Americans throw away 21 percent of the food that they buy.

Among the most wasted foods are seafood and meat, milk and eggs, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Landfills across the country are overflowing with rotting food, which releases methane, a substance that accelerates global warming at a rate much higher than carbon dioxide does.

In addition, the land and water used to grow or create that food has been wasted, the NRDC said, because the fruits of the labor didn't go to recipients who consumed those fruits (and vegetables, and meats, and milk, etc.).

The United Nations has issued a call for people to reduce their "foodprint." The USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have launched new campaigns to increase awareness of food waste.

Among the strategies urged are these:

  • an understanding of expiration dates and use-by dates
  • an appreciation of meal planning matched with inventory on hand, so that food shoppers don't buy things they already have
  • the importance of freezing leftover foods so they don't spoil
  • an encouragement of the use of composting, the recycling of food scraps into a back yard vegetable garden.

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