As many of us once again rouse ourselves from festivities filled with an overabundance of food, it might be sombering to ponder that a recent PLoS ONE study suggests that nearly 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. As noted in a recent ScienceNOW article, physiologist Kevin Hall and mathematician Carson Chow, both at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), calculated the energy content of nationwide food waste from the difference between the US food supply and the food consumed by the population. They used a mathematical model of metabolism relating body weight to amount of food eaten. The result: in 2003, 1450 calories per capita, or 39 percent of available food was wasted. The U.S. Department of Agriculture puts the figure at 27 percent, based on interviews with consumers and producers.
The authors point out that in addition to the food itself, freshwater used to grow food and fossil fuels used to transport it are also wasted.
The ScienceNOW article quotes Greg Keoleian, Co-Director of the Center for Sustainable Systems as saying:
If it [food] was more expensive, waste would be reduced. Waste and overconsumption is the key issue affecting the sustainability of the U.S. food system.
Makes me think a good New Year’s resolution might be to be more vigilant about using what’s already in the ‘fridge and pantry before running out to buy more food.
Hall, K., Guo, J., Dore, M., & Chow, C. (2009). The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact PLoS ONE, 4 (11) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007940