As recently as 2012, close to 50 million people experienced food insecurity, not in Africa or Bangladesh, but right here in the USA. Worldwide, that number is over 1 billion people.
That makes the fact that somewhere between a quarter and a third of all food produced worldwide is never eaten all the more shocking. America is the worst offender by far. The portion of food production in the US that goes to waste is closer to 40 percent.
A report by the National Consumer League, called Wasted: Solutions to the American Food Waste Problem, came out last week. It maps the magnitude of the problem and, as the title suggests, offers a number of practical suggestions.
Let’s start with a look at the problem. American consumers waste 10 times as much food as their counterparts in Southeast Asia.
Why do we waste so much? Well, one reason is because it’s become so cheap. Americans today spend only 6 percent of their total household expenditures on food. Back in 1982 that number was 12 percent. But, as the saying goes, perhaps you get what you pay for. American food waste has risen by 50 percent since the seventies at the same time that prices and nutrition have declined. Today’s American family of four throws away anywhere from $1,350 to $2,275 worth of food each year. Put that all together and we are looking at $165 billion, as a nation, being wasted.
Hunger in the streets will not simply be solved by reducing waste, but the report tells us that, if we could reduce our level of waste by 30 percent, that would be enough food to feed our 50 million hungry. If only we could get it to them.
A Mechanical engineer seeking to understand the fabric of reality