Visualizing America’s food waste

January 31, 2014

Americans waste almost 40% of the food produced here, mostly after it gets into the hands of consumers. A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows how much food is lost in various parts of the food distribution chain:

Dana Gunders, a scientist at the NRDC who wrote the report, comes up with two basic reasons why Americans waste so much food (the equivalent of $165 billion each year): 

The first is that food represents a small portion of many Americans’ budgets, making the financial cost of wasting food too low to outweigh the convenience of it. Second, there is the plain economic truth that the more food consumers waste, the more those in the food industry are able to sell.

Basically, says Gunders, food doesn’t feel like a scarce resource in the US, so we don’t think too hard about wasting it.

But the report also makes the point that it’s not all just consumers throwing food out. If you look at the production losses, fruits and vegetables are especially vulnerable to waste in the supply chain. It’s partially because so much is lost because of weather-related and economic threats. For example, we lose food when the temperature isn’t right on a refrigerated truck, or when products have to be cut and trimmed to look just right.

But mostly we lose food because we throw it out.

The full report can be found here.

One comment

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The large amount of food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today’s tough economy and for the food retailers. We should address the food waste problem in every link in our food supply chain. For example, the excess inventory of perishable food items close to their expiration on supermarket shelves causes waste.
The consumer “Last In First Out” shopping behavior might be one of the weakest links of the fresh food supply chain.
Why not encourage efficient consumer shopping by offering him automatic and dynamic purchasing incentives for perishables approaching their expiration dates before they end up in a landfill?
The new open GS1 DataBar standard enables automatic applications that offer dynamic incentives for perishables approaching their expiration dates.
The “End Grocery Waste” application, which is based on the open GS1 DataBar standard, encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that maximizes grocery retailer revenue, makes fresh food affordable for all families and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint. You can look this application up at EndGroceryWaste site.

Chicago, IL

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