I open the trash can in the kitchen and look down and see a half-rotten Honeycrisp apple.
My family is part of the food waste problem.
What percentage of food is wasted in the US?
That works out to around £492 to £1,032 per person per year (estimates vary widely).
That’s the verdict of an Environmental Protection Agency report titled From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of US Food Waste.
“Fruit and vegetables are the most commonly wasted foods, followed by dairy and eggs,” the report notes.
FLW (Food Loss and Waste: You can’t write a government report without lots of acronyms) makes up an area of farmland the size of California and the state of New York combined. About half of this waste occurs at the consumption level (gastronomy and household).
The loss here has the greatest impact on the environment as it accumulates the further down the supply chain you go. There is a certain amount of waste when you cut a head of lettuce in the field. There’s a lot more to it when someone has to pick it, pack it, ship it, and store it in a store.
The report looks at food insecurity.
“In 2019, more than 35 million Americans were food insecure. . . . However, this food insecurity is not due to scarcity. . . . Studies show that even if every American were provided with enough calories to meet their current level of physical activity and body weight, there would still be a surplus of 1,050 to 1,400 calories per person per day. The amount of surplus food from retailers and consumers. . . enough to feed 154 million people for a year. . . a far greater number than USDA estimates are food insecure.”
Between 70 and 90 percent of this waste is edible food. Ninety percent of the food that is wasted in the supply chain is edible. Households fare slightly better: only 70 percent of the waste there is edible. Around 40 percent of household food waste consists of fruit and vegetables.
The study points to the goal of halving food waste. It shows that this loss is best achieved through waste reduction rather than recycling. In addition, the greatest environmental benefits can be achieved by avoiding waste at the consumption level and by focusing on the foods that generate the most waste.
First and foremost, this includes fruit and vegetables.
At the very least, the report suggests that avoiding food waste will be an ongoing and increasingly urgent goal for the fruit and vegetable industry. Shockingly, however, there are even the vaguest recommendations as to how this goal might be achieved.
One approach is streamlined communication methods to connect food at risk of going to waste with potential buyers, such as B. Full Harvest’s business-to-business app.
On a personal level, there’s one more Honeycrisp apple in our fruit basket. I should eat it before it goes bad.