When we think of sustainable practices and green efforts, recycling and reducing usage of materials and power sources are among the first things that spring to mind. However, there is one waste problem that is commonly overlooked.
Two billion dollars a year: the amount of money that American consumers, businesses and farms spend on growing, transporting and disposing of food that is never eaten. This equates to over 50 million tons of food that is sent to landfills annually—over 40% of all food produced goes to waste. This food is the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste and accounts for a large portion of the U.S. methane emissions.
The main culprits contributing to this astonishing figure are food service establishments. Vast amounts of perfectly servable, unspoiled food are thrown away at the end of each night.
Ironically, at the same time, nearly 50 million Americans (including more than 15 million children) live in food-insecure households. The USDA defines “food insecurity” as the occasional lack of access to enough food for all household members. In 2015, 13% of American households lived with food insecurity. Five percent of these households experienced very low food security, meaning the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted due to limited resources.
In the last eight years, it has become increasingly clear that this is a problem of the working poor—having to make hard decisions between buying enough food to feed a family or paying bills and keeping a roof over their head.