Lately I've been helping Seven Generations Ahead create a food curriculum called "Linking Plants and Food," which teaches middle school students important issues about food and food politics. The kids will learn that almost everything we eat comes from a plant, and how to design a school garden. They also learn about food waste, and how to reduce it through composting. While doing research for this lesson on food waste, I came across some shocking statistics.
Every year Americans throw away 34 million tons of food. 34 million tons! In one month, a family of four throws away 122 pounds of food, or a pound per person per day. We throw away up to 30% of the food available to us each year.
There are so many reasons why this is terrible. It's terrible because the food in our landfills produces high amounts of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change. It's terrible because it's a huge waste of money (up to $31 billion a year). It's terrible because throwing away this food is disrespectful to the farmers who worked to produce it.
But most of all, it's terrible because we live in a world where so many people are hungry, while others throw away food because it looks slightly bruised or was forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. Our food waste habits are taking away food from these hungry people. We buy too much food, and it drives up grain prices, making food unaffordable for people in poverty.
But that means that if Americans (and Brits) stopped wasting so much food, we could help alleviate hunger. In fact, we could almost eliminate it completely. At least one billion people could be lifted out of hunger with only a quarter of the food we waste. One billion!
We need to start reducing our food waste. The EPA has its own plan for how to do it nationally. Here, and here, and here are some tips on how to do it in your own kitchen.
And, for some visual fun, here is an infographic on how much food we waste. Click on the picture for a larger image.