By Robin Young
A new study from Penn State revealed that U.S. households waste about a third of the food they purchased every year. The results were similar to previous studies that showed Americans wasted an estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of their food.
The study, published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, found that the average U.S. household wasted 31.9 percent of its food. The total annual cost of the wasted food was estimated to be $240 billion, or $1,866 per household. The data came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, and included 4,000 households.
Researchers noticed that higher-income households with healthier diets wasted more food than lower-income families. Since healthier diets tend to include more fruits, vegetables and other perishable items, some of the waste can be explained by food spoiling before the household had a chance to eat it. The researchers pointed out that healthy-eating programs may be inadvertently encouraging more food waste.
Some households, such as those with larger families or those receiving federal SNAP food assistance benefits, wasted less food. In addition, the study’s authors mentioned that using a shopping list and living farther away from a grocery store reduced waste. But even the most frugal household still wasted 8.7 percent of the food it bought.
Although the study focused on consumers’ homes, a large portion of the food produced in the U.S. never reaches a dinner plate. From harvest to shipment to supermarket distribution, spoilage and waste can occur at any point during the process.
An estimated 72 billion pounds of food is thrown out long before it ends up in your refrigerator because it is incinerated or ends up in a landfill. Whether it has blemishes that affect appearance or is an irregular size that might confuse shoppers, there are many reasons why produce ends up in the garbage. In recent years, companies such as Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market have tried to rescue this type of food, but more efforts are necessary to have a real impact.
Ugly apples that are deemed inedible are not the only reason why food ends up wasted in America. Some food is never harvested and left to rot because of labor shortages, falling crop prices or food safety scares (like lettuce recalls).
Encouraging households to use a shopping list or to buy only what they can eat may reduce some of the food waste, but the entire food production process needs improvements to eliminate waste completely.
CPR and first aid classes
CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.
We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.
Extension Viewpoints: The shocking amount of food U.S. households waste every year
By Robin Young