Some Americans go hungry while others waste food


Editor’s note: This story pairs with “Confusion abounds over how to make food donations in Utah”

The holiday season is a time for food banks across America to remind their communities hunger never goes away, yet food waste has reached epic proportions in the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, between 30-40 percent of the food in the country is wasted. It was figured that in 2010, approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food was lost to waste.

Food waste poses several concerns for the country. First, with 12.5 percent of households in the U.S. struggling to put food on the table, much of that waste could be put to good use. A 15 percent reduction of food loss could feed 25 million more Americans every year. Food waste is also the single largest component going into municipal landfills, according to the USDA, and is the third largest source of methane in the United States.

On a household level, Americans throw away about a quarter of all the food they bring home.

Officials from the local level to the federal government have been working on ways to reduce food waste. In 1996 the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act was passed to protect businesses from liability when donating leftover food to charity. Although states may have stricter guidelines on food donation, most instances are protected except in cases of extreme negligence.

Lorna L. Koci, executive director of the Bountiful Community Food Pantry, said donated food makes up a large part of the BCFP. She also said it would be an incredible help if more businesses donated their leftover food.

In 2015 the USDA officially set a national food loss and waste goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. The USDA said it will “work in partnership with charitable organizations, faith organizations, the private sector, and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation’s natural resources.”

The National Resources Defense Council is also currently helping cities find better ways to use their surplus food, as well as working with the federal government to make food labels less confusing.

There are dozens of reasons why so much food is thrown out in the U.S. Food can expire or be forgotten, and grocery stores throw out unattractive produce that shoppers will not buy. Other reasons include logistics of produce traveling long distances, misleading food labels, and over shopping.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stresses learning how to plan, prep, and store food correctly to minimize environmental impact and help Americans reduce their own food waste. The agency says consumers should plan meals and stick to grocery lists to avoid overbuying and be aware of how to properly store food so it lasts as long as possible. They also suggest prepping food soon after it is purchased so it is easier to eat and less likely to go bad. A “leftovers night” is also recommended at least once a week to use up any food that may not have been consumed.

In addition to these tips, Global Citizen proposes learning about composting and different food preservation techniques like pickling and canning that will extend the shelf life of many foods. For a full list of tips, visit the Global Citizen website.

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