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June 5, 2012 at 4:43 PMComments: 4 Faves: 0

USA Has 96 Billion lbs of Food Waste Annually: Why Are So Many People Starving?

By Sue More Blogs by This Author

Mom was right, “Clean your plate. There are starving children in Africa”.

In fact, there are starving children all over this world. Let's look at the numbers according to EPA and USDA estimates:

  • 96,000,000,000: The pounds of food wasted by Americans every year.
  • 1,000,000,000: The cost paid in dollars to dispose of US food waste every year.
  • 15,000,000: The number of  children who die every year from hunger.
  • 14: Approximately how many LBS of that wasted food could have went to every single single person on the planet instead of in the trash. (That's equivalent to a nearly a month's worth of food for every person on the planet given a 2,000 calorie per day diet.)

The financial implications are enormous. But what’s not so obvious is the impact it has on the environment. Wasted food in national landfills contributes to global warming through it’s decomposing process - not to mention the natural resources used to produce the food that is wasted. When food is wasted, the energy and resources invested by the supply chain to deliver food to our pantry and plates is lost.

Where the Waste Happens

I could go on and on with statistics and facts. What remains alarming to me is how apathetic most Americans are towards this issue. I once witnessed a chef take 3 cases of tomatoes and throw them in the dumpster because they were not the right color. Visit a school cafeteria any day of the week and check out the piles of food thrown away every day. Perhaps the largest contributor to food waste are farmers themselves. They are ruled by what sells and will throw away thousands of pounds of perfectly edible produce because they are either the wrong size, shape or color to be marketable to retailers.

Wabi-Sabi - The Beauty of Imperfection

I think we should start making it cool to eat less than perfect food items. Just like the funky looking heirloom tomatoes that never made it to the grocery shelves until recently because of their odd shapes and colors. Now heirlooms are cool and can be found in most food markets. My garden hardly ever produces symmetrical or even sized vegetables. But that’s what I love about it. I once had a carrot that looked like Bob Dylan, a one in a million carrot that we all enjoyed for dinner that night while listening to “Like a Rolling Stone”.

Lately I’ve been hearing about these underground supper clubs that are emerging all over the country. Chefs are creating these fantastic exclusive meals using the unmarketable produce and meats from local farms that would most likely have ended up in dumpsters. They are invite only events making it very exclusive and locations are not divulged until 24 hours before.  Folks are begging to get on the list and partake in this trendy unique way of making the public aware of our food waste.

Five Ways to Cut Your Food Waste

You may not have underground super clubs in your community however there are some some things you can do to reduce the food waste at home:

  1. Learn to follow the FIFO rule. (first in first out) This rule is used in restaurants to ensure food is used before it’s expiration and little food goes to waste.
  2. Use everything. Don’t throw put those bits of left over cheese or vegetables. Make a quiche or soup.
  3. Use your freezer. If you over buy just make your recipes larger and freeze the other half.
  4. Write a list. Check to make sure you don’t already have the items on your shopping list and buy only what you can eat.
  5. Use leftovers. Instead of scraping leftovers why not use them for tomorrow’s ingredients. For example leftover cooked vegetables can be tossed with pasta to make a perfect pasta primavera.

Have more ideas?

I’d love you to share your ideas!

More from Sue Others Are Reading


  • I used to save and freeze even the smallest of veggie scraps and then use them to make a vegetable stock later on when making soups. I don't cook as much as I used to though, but I still try to be mindful of what I end up tossing out, and prefer to compost when I can.

  • That's great Dave. If more people were like you can you imagine how much less waste there would be?

  • Most food that's actually spoiled doesn't need to go in the trash either. Seriously, just compost it. Don't want to make a compost heap? Dig a hole in your garden and throw it in there. Put the dirt back over it... it'll compost all on it's own.

    I personally try to avoid the 'clean your plate' thing with my kids, and believe me, it's hard sometimes. Rather, we try to encourage them to take small portions and go back for seconds if they need more.

  • Hey!!! I just LOVE your post and Man, it's terrible that soo much food is wasted for such nonsense reasons. Maybe we all ought to take a look at why food has to look like a magazine cover to be eaten. And yes, many people anywhere in the world can be going hungry, while it gets thrown in the trash. There is good news, though. There's a Great program called City Harvest, all over the states. Food is rescued from being thrown out.. from stores, restaurants, retail business and brought to where it can feed those in need. Here is the link to start a City Harvest where you live. The best alternative that I'm aware of. . Please check it out.

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