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How Much Food Do You Waste?

by Sandy Todd Webster on Oct 31, 2012

Food for Thought

In an era when so many people in our nation are food-insecure, it may be shocking to learn that about 40% of the food produced in the United States each year ends up as garbage.

According to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Americans waste about 20 pounds of food per month, per person. And it’s not just the food that gets wasted; the NRDC points out that we should also consider the resources and energy that go into growing the food: 25% of our fresh water supply, 4% of oil and “more than $165 billion all dedicated to producing food that never gets eaten,” says an NRDC fact sheet.

Losses occur before food even reaches your shopping cart. Some crops are not harvested because they are less than perfect, and products get damaged or spoiled owing to faulty storage or to mishandling during transport. However, once food is in your home, the waste continues. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that we end up tossing 40% of our fresh fish, 23% of our eggs and 20% of the milk we buy. Produce is commonly wasted as well—chiefly, citrus fruits and cherries, sweet potatoes, onions and greens.

The NRDC suggests practicing the following steps to reduce or eliminate food waste:

  • Shop wisely. Plan meals ahead, make lists and buy only what you need.
  • Buy “funny” fruit. Pick the ugly ducklings once in a while. Fruits need not look perfect to taste good. vGet a true sense of when food goes bad. “Sell by” dates are manufacturer suggestions for peak freshness. Many foods can be consumed beyond these dates, according to the USDA.
  • Mine your fridge and get creative about using up what’s inside.
  • Use your freezer.
  • Request smaller portions in restaurants.
  • Eat leftovers.
  • Compost your kitchen waste.
  • Donate overflow of nonperishable and unspoiled perishable food to local soup kitchens and food banks.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.