USDA noted in a recent press release that in 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants and homes was tossed. And the amount of uneaten food—just in homes and restaurants—was valued at almost $390 per U.S. consumer in 2008—more than an average month's worth of food expenditures.
That's a lot of land, labor, water, pesticides, fertilizers wasted. All the effort to produce and market the food could have been channeled elsewhere, other than tossed.
Vilsack also shared some information about a new effort on the part of USDA and EPA to reduce this waste called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. The agencies want to partner with businesses to help lead a shift in consumer thinking and habits about food waste. They hope to get 400 business partners on board with the program by 2015 and by 2020, 1,000 involved.
I found it refreshing to hold consumers accountable when it comes to food supply and food security. Consumers want choice and in America, they get it. The over-abundance we have is taken for granted, mainly because our food is so cheap when compared to rest of the world. Americans only spend 6%-10% of their paychecks on food.
In order to keep our food supply safe, reliable and affordable, it will take effort on everyone's part to plan ahead for responsible food consumption. I know I must get on board with this. Vegetables in our refrigerator drawer usually stay there longer than they should and end up in the trash. And sometimes leftovers reside too long on the back shelf.
Individually, food waste might not seem like much of a big deal. Collectively, however, it is.
Let's try to remember that next time we load our grocery carts and fill our plates.