Uncovering the Startling Secrets Behind Our Uneaten Food

The issue of food waste is a nagging problem that haunts our grocery stores and restaurants every day. While we may acknowledge it at a certain level, the stark reality hits hard when you come across a photograph of a big dumpster brimming with delicious donuts destined for the landfill.

Recently, a user shared such a heart-wrenching image, triggering an outpouring of shared frustration.

It’s not just “mildly infuriating,” but rather a profoundly troubling sight to witness hundreds of donuts meeting a fate that makes one question the ethics of our food system.

The Alarming Scale of Food Waste

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One commenter shared a personal experience, saying,

“The whole reason I quit one of my many jobs… They made pizza, and if no one ate it, they threw it away, and the workers couldn’t keep it or eat it for their lunch breaks. [It] was atrocious how much food was being wasted.”

This personal anecdote highlights a broader issue plaguing the food industry.

The United States leads the world in food waste, discarding an estimated 40 million tons of food annually. This staggering figure accounts for 30-40% of the country’s food supply. Alarmingly, this discarded food constitutes 22% of the total waste in landfills.

In 2021 alone, grocery stores were responsible for approximately five million tons of food waste, which included delicious produce and other edible items. Shockingly, 1.55 million tons of this discarded food ended up in landfills, contributing to the growing environmental crisis.

The Environmental Toll

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The repercussions of food waste do not end when it reaches the landfill. There, it continues to harm our planet by releasing planet-warming gases like methane and carbon dioxide as it decomposes.

These gases significantly exacerbate global warming and climate change, posing a grave environmental threat.

The Human Toll

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Besides the environmental devastation, food waste also inflicts severe consequences on humanity. In the United States, 34 million people, including nine million children, grapple with food insecurity.

The irony is evident: Millions go hungry while edible food is wasted.

A Call for Change

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As one poignantly observed,

“This is what GREED looks like… the sad world we have created.”

Another emphasized the artificial nature of scarcity in the modern world, stating,

“We have enough, but not if we’re throwing food away on this scale.”

Calls for change reverberate across the digital space. Some demand federal laws mandating the donation of edible food overstock that remains within its expiration date to charities. Others share their core-level unease with the whole situation.

Food Waste Statistics In the USA

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Annually, the United States wastes approximately 119 billion pounds of food, equivalent to 130 billion meals and over $408 billion in discarded food.

Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted.

Food waste occurs at every food production and distribution chain stage, from farmers to consumers. And American households accounts for about 39% of all food waste, approximately 42 billion pounds.

Commercial food waste is about 61% of all food waste, or roughly 66 billion pounds.

Approximately 35 million Americans, including 10 million children, suffer from food insecurity.

Causes of Food Waste

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One significant reason for food waste is food spoilage, whether real or perceived.

Misunderstanding of expiration labels, such as “sell by,” “use by,” “expires on,” “best before,” or “best by,” leads to the disposal of perfectly good, consumable food.

Over 80% of Americans discard food due to confusion regarding these expiration labels.

U.S. Goal to Reduce Food Loss & Waste

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In 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a goal of reducing the nation’s food waste by 50% by the year 2030.

Baseline Estimates for Measuring Progress

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The United States currently needs a baseline estimate for food loss and waste.

The EPA’s estimate in 2010 was 218.9 pounds of food waste per person sent for disposal, serving as the baseline for the 2030 food loss and waste reduction goal, aiming to reduce it by 50% to 109.4 pounds per person.

USDA estimates indicate that in 2010, food loss and waste at the retail and consumer levels amounted to 31% of the food supply, equivalent to 133 billion pounds and nearly $162 billion.

These details highlight the staggering magnitude of food waste in the United States, its causes, and the government’s goal to address this critical issue by reducing food loss and waste.

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Sources

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  1. feedingamerica.org/our-work/reduce-food-waste
  2. rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/
  3. usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs

This article was produced and syndicated by Viral Chatter. It was inspired by this Reddit thread.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.