America, land of the consumer

This photo depicts how much food conosumers waste a year, approximately 30 million tons. (Nicole Bullard)

Nicole Bullard

As a consumer in America it can be astonishing to see how much we waste, especially when it involves retail and food.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans produce 30 million tons of food waste a year, which is 12 percent of the total waste stream.

With all of this food waste, it seems odd that not only does America have the highest food waste rate, but the Nation’s Food Bank Network, which is a group of over 200 food banks, has said that donations are down 9 percent. So where is all this food going?

Considering this is not a new issue in America, there is a growing need for consumers to be less wasteful with their food than they were in the years before.

In light of the latest holiday, Thanksgiving, how can waste be cut short when the holidays require heaps of food, and in the end, leftovers that will be possibly discarded? And second, what happens to all of this food?

Two percent of this food ends up in land fills, and the remaining waste is composted. Incidentally, rotting food releases methane into the atmosphere which is another factor to the problems of food waste.

This problem can be solved, if one is willing to make the effort. For example, most people always prepare for more guests than they have actually invited, in fear of not having enough food and embarrassing themselves.

The obvious solution would be to cook for the amount of people that will be attending. Of course, talk is cheap, and this can be harder to accomplish when unsure of the end result.

Thanksgiving is not the sole cause of food waste in America. Everyone does their share, whether willingly or not. Restaurants, retail, and the household fridge all have one thing in common: they all contribute to the waste factor.

There are several programs dedicated to cutting food waste in half, and hopefully to almost nothing at all.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and The Food Marketing Institute have released details of a three year initiative that was created to help their industry prevent food waste.

There is also the proposition of abolishing buffets, because they are an enormous weight on the shoulders of the food industry and a leading factor of waste.

According to the Bread For The World Institute, 3.5 percent of U.S. households deal with hunger, skip meals and sometimes don’t eat for a whole day. More than 9 million people live in these homes, including 3 million children.

Well, how is it that there are Americans still going hungry throughout the years, and food waste still hasn’t been lowered?

To answer this, a 2004 study from the University of Arizona in Tucson, has found that an average of 14 percent of food products were wasted in American households.

Unless the food industry and retail services concoct a plan to cut food waste in half, the consumers should realize it’s going to take a lot of self-responsibility to contribute to the end of food waste.

Everyone can make a change, it doesn’t just have to be family households who might buy more food products because of the number of people living together. Anyone can be aware of their food waste, and in the end it is beneficial to everyone.

If one is ready to step up and make a change in their household, than the key idea is to only buy what will be used. It’s probably not a good idea to buy three milk cartons when it is likely that one of them will spoil before there’s a chance to open it.

There are many ways to prevent food waste, for families, single parents and college students. It all depends on taking responsibility for the food waste, recognizing it for what it is, and taking the steps to prevent it.

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